December 11, 2020
This is an open letter to the Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault, the Prime Minster of Canada Justin Trudeau, the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada Chrystia Freeland, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) regarding the dangerous decision to pursue ‘branded content’, also known as ‘paid content’, ‘sponsored content’, and/or ‘advertorials’.
I’m a former CBC reporter who covered federal and provincial politics at CBC News and CBC.ca, as well as elections and economic segments for the Connect with Mark Kelley show. I will be forever indebted to them for providing my first shot at investigative journalism, before budgets were drastically cut to unsustainable levels that brought my craft to its knees. Over the years I’ve watched several intrepid reporters trying to come to terms with the effect of those cuts, as we found ourselves and the facts replaced by a stronger emphasis on editorial opinions. It’s true that fact-checking costs money and requires a strong cadre of producers with dynamic experience to support original content, but this death by a thousand cuts has finally hit rock bottom to the point that it will destroy the CBC.
I won’t waste everyone’s time banging the identical drum as www.stoppaidcontentoncbc.ca, though I do support every last word they’ve said. I believe I have a unique and legal angle to contribute that the Canadian government must thoughtfully consider. I believe it so deeply that I’m writing this despite recovering from eye surgery, because I became legally blind during the pandemic unexpectedly. I’m attempting to work through complete double vision as an artificial transplant begins to settle and this is my first experience with dictation software. The white computer screen is still overpowering and I won’t be healed until February, so please forgive any typos or grammatical errors. But let that sink in that I would accept these consequences to share my counsel with you before I’m truly able to be back on the scene.
The open letter signed by a growing number of past and present CBC staff soundly explains the problem with CBC Tandem from a journalist’s perspective regarding trust and reputation issues. It makes reference to fake news, leveraging the CBC’s reputation to benefit advertisers, and confusing the public by letting ads masquerade as articles that mimic the news. (1. original / archive)
Plenty has been written about the damage caused by advertorials, but in the era of digital revolution and disruptive innovation, most mainstream media executives care very little when tasked with finding a magic wand to resolve the logistics of collapsing revenue streams. The situation is so dire that it gives new meaning to the slur presstitute. Fear has chipped away at integrity enough that we can sell our souls to put food on the table, or deal with toxic workplaces for taking a stand in the name of truth and transparency. We were once paid for our integrity but now it’s becoming somewhat of a liability in the battle against fake news and profit margins. For context, it’s considered scandalous that so many CBC journos would speak out publicly against the Tandem project that it’s a news story in itself. (2. original / archive, 3. original / archive, 4. original / archive, 5. original / archive, 6. original / archive)
In any event, I made similar complaints in a Twitter thread that focused on selling the CBC’s reputation. I further condemned advertorials as blatant fake news because their entire purpose is meant to trick readers by hiding the fact that it is an ad behind the veneer of a news article. If advertorials weren’t meant to mislead anyone, then why do they to pretend to be something they’re not?
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I didn’t have much space to elaborate on my concerns about the conflict of interest element that was introduced by CBC Tandem and I will do so now, because it’s dangerous to the Government of Canada in countless ways that even threaten our democracy. CBC is a Crown corporation and despite arms-length firewalls, it is funded by the government and public tax dollars. For better or for worse it’s a representative of the government and when anything goes wrong, blame is directed toward the prime minister. The board that oversees the CBC is appointed by the Governor in Council as well. (7. original / archive)
That sets up a formal legal relationship between CBC and the Government of Canada, with appointees swearing an oath to the Crown. Despite everything we’ve done in our democratic landscape to insulate the CBC to achieve press freedom, the rest of the world still views it as a state broadcaster. In that vein we’ve also done everything possible to distance ourselves from other state broadcasters such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea that are captured by political masters.
Our love was never for sale, at least until the CBC Tandem division was created. Now anyone can purchase the CBC’s integrity and by extension, that of its journalists. But that still isn’t the biggest problem confronting the government as a result of this development. The dark corner I’m trying to illuminate is much more ‘insidious’ than anyone’s reputation.
As an investigative reporter I spend ninety percent of my time researching and only ten percent of it actually publishing. In the bulk of my work I’ve discovered severe issues that are threatening western democracies, disorienting the public, and skewing the development of public policy. It would be impossible for me to recount the number of times I’ve come across opinion editorials (OpEds) insufficiently referenced in government studies on any given issue. So long as someone can get their viewpoint printed in the news, it’s assumed to be factual as a footnote that nobody verifies from a mountain of consultative submissions the government merely itemizes in transcripts and final reports.
There is no label to distinguish OpEds from bona fide news in our research systems and much of the public can’t tell you the difference between a columnist and a reporter. Even if a politician understands, the public isn’t taught to be skeptical about these footnotes because telling voters to be wary of government decisions based on that very material would weaken faith in our democracy and the process by which we evaluate issues. With no intention of being partisan, I came to understand this during the Harper administration. What I’m about to say next is motivated only by experience and the time frame any cobwebs of naïveté were being swept away from my vision.
In all my investigations during Conservative rule, I kept stumbling on right-wing organizations that held campaigns and competitions to flood Canadian media with OpEds in support of their various causes. Some of them even paid activists if they could manage to get published, so a politician could cite the opinion and present it to a House of Commons or Senate committee with the same effect as something factual. This happened on multiple issues, including but not limited to Indigenous rights, pro-choice rights, gay rights, gun rights, and climate change. This tactic of inorganic manipulation was successful and responsible for repealing human rights that used to protect Canadians against hate speech. (8. original / archive)
Since I discovered that deficiency in 2014, I watched the practice become adopted by left-wing organizations that sought to fight fire with fire. It’s quickly becoming a standard practice for various groups to pre-write letters of complaint and OpEds that supporters only have to sign and click to send through an agency’s automated system. Fake news was already automated in Canada before the term was coined or widely understood. It also taints nearly every government report on ideological wedge issues.
In addition to grassroots being harnessed to deceive legislators on an industrial scale, we also have partisan think-tanks that have grown more audacious. They too are spreading false information through Canadian media that becomes cited as fact, to form the basis of public policy on matters so integral to government as income tax. (9. original / archive, 10. original / archive)
Advertorials must be outlawed by the CRTC as a matter of false advertising. We already have tools to deal with it because it’s an unabashed and purposely misleading product. Even if the message is true the medium is not, inverse of ‘the medium is the message’. Something that isn’t fact-checked news should not be made to appear as if it is.
No democracy can afford the steep cost of advertorials becoming the basis of public policy. We don’t even have the manipulation of OpEds under control and this practice of influence deception will explode if given another avenue. Corporate retailers aren’t the only advertising clients and to ignore the rest would be worse than foolish, regardless of which side you might find yourself on pertaining to any issue. This will remove the science from poli-sci and turn back time to govern by folklore. If you have trouble believing, then enquire with climate scientists who spent the last decade contending with this exactly. Instead of making progress on carbon emissions we ended up with a new generation of flat-earthers and Creationism being taught in public schools again.
On that basis then consider that foreign governments are advertisers too. The Digital Cold War is upon us and most developed countries have entire units that pursue influence campaigns throughout the military-intelligence complex. Years ago I might have hesitated to make that statement and contemplated a more moderate description, but Canada was compelled to set up a task force to monitor that threat during the last federal election and it played a role in undermining Brexit in the United Kingdom, as well as a past election in the United States. None of us has devised a perfect solution yet and advertorials are set to open the floodgates.
If that wasn’t enough to give you pause for thought, then weigh the CBC’s relationship with domestic political parties and triangulate it with the government. From experience I can tell you how hard it is to avoid accusations of political bias at a Crown corporation. An inordinate amount of social media vitriol is hurled at CBC journos by partisans of every stripe, because tax payers sense their ownership of Crown reporters and they’re emotionally driven to have their own views reflected by them. As the line between advertising and journalism blurs, it further complicates this sticky wicket by lowering the bar for professionalism and respect. Most of us have received the odd death threat, a few of us have actually been assaulted, and female reporters have heard everything that would turn your hair blue about their sexuality and sometimes their children. Allowing political parties and/or fronts for political parties to purchase CBC advertorials will exacerbate these symptoms and increase the fever pitch.
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Source: Michael DeAdder, Twitter
Advertorials present a tantalizing opportunity for dark money in politics, but even on the surface it creates a curious conflict of interest with registered partisan entities. Whether it’s the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, Greens, or Bloc, they could theoretically skirt advertising limits by using operatives to place advertorials on their behalf. Elections Canada doesn’t have the resources to police clandestine party spending and it would technically be subsidized by the Government of Canada because it’s the government that funds the CBC. I will leave that part for legal scholars to hash out, but I know enough to be sure that it doesn’t pass a sniff test. At the very least no sitting government would wish to subsidize an opposition party’s partisan propaganda. I’m not sure the public would be fine with paying taxes so the CBC could publish counterfeit news articles on behalf of anti-vaxxers either.
In the best case scenario, CBC Tandem is inviting public controversy every time it has to make a decision to run an advertorial related to any issue. They’ll be hauled in front of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal if they decline pandemic hoax pieces, anti-abortion pieces, anti-Indigenous pieces, anti-Muslim pieces, anti-immigration pieces, anti-climate pieces, anti-science pieces, or any of the opponents on the pro side. One way or another, one of these clients would be in a position to at least claim discrimination, often related to a religious belief. A Charter challenge could also result regarding the freedom of expression and Canada lacks a full skeleton of precedents to clearly define what press freedom is. What we do have though is a handful of constitutional activist organizations that prowl for opportunities to file cases like these, in the longstanding effort to shape our legal rights in the direction of libertarian ideology. The way journalism dealt with this problem is ‘both-sidesing’ everything, but that option isn’t available in the purchased marketing scheme.
Advertorials have no business defining Canadian law and the Canadian identity, but that’s exactly what they’re poised to do irrespective of the media agency that initiates open season on our Constitution. It doesn’t seem wise for CBC to become that brand new battleground that is muddled between journalism and advertising, or to waste its lean budget on successive legal challenges. It already can’t afford to perform regular, substantive, investigative journalism anymore, because the type of work that I do is cost prohibitive when it requires a small team of lawyers to vet it. I’ve been sitting on a major data breach investigation because everyone is constrained by budgets and adopting advertorials is not the path to pay for it. On the contrary and due to being in everyone’s political crosshairs, it could be a way to eventually bankrupt the CBC. I’m curious if there was a risk analysis performed for the Tandem project and if these perils were appraised holistically.
It would do no good to implement an advertorial policy that blanket-banned issues advertising in favour of retail products only. That’s because products are related to lifestyles and lifestyles are related to social issues. Take for example the gun. The morning after pill. Religious books and courses. Bicycles. Oil stocks. Green energy products. Indigenous cigarettes. Kotex. Natural medicines. The list goes on. So is CBC prepared to be the site of protests when those items are politically weaponized? And do executives believe it will boost the credibility or safety of its journalists?
It remains to be seen what the ramifications of advertorials might be from another perspective still. Based solely on retail products, who bears the legal onus when a consumer is harmed by a dangerous item that was misrepresented by what appeared to be a CBC article to a 65-year-old audience member? If the CBC was to indemnify itself in advertorial contracts, would it also not be jeopardizing the collective reputation of all reporters? After all,
It’s also CBC staff that would write or collaborate on the counterfeit article, with final approval that lacked legal fact-checking to verify the claims made by a Crown corporation on behalf of its private ad clients. In essence that further implies government confidence in the client, even if tacit to a layperson. It creates stark inequality between company divisions as well, despite products that appear to be identical as articles except for a miniature sticker that says ‘branded content’ in a diminished corner. For that matter the term ‘branded content’ is deceptive and it’s meant to soothe the reader’s skepticism by avoiding words like ‘paid’ and ‘advertisement’.
This is a concept that hasn’t been legally tested and I was all for CBC setting journalistic standards, until this development posed a risky gamble to everyone who is still working there. If something looks too good to be true it usually is, and trying to take this easy way out of a funding shortfall is a catastrophe waiting to happen. There are no easy answers to the ripple effects of COVID-19, just as there are no simple steps to combat disruptive innovation in a digital revolution. These are both once-in-a-lifetime challenges that no echo chamber in a boardroom can solve by putting lipstick on a pig. I applaud CBC for its general open-mindedness but respectfully and with great concern, this Tandem advertorial venture needs to be put on ice.
I stress this is not a problem unique to the CBC and while they must cancel this project to maintain their own house, the government and/or CRTC must also act swiftly to prohibit the use of advertorials by any media organization in Canada. It must be a level playing field and one that is based on principles of the Fourth Estate, instead of a product that by its definition is masquerading as something it’s not. To put it plainly, advertorials are promoted and sold as counterfeit news articles, when the real news is in the fight of its life to save its own reputation and viability. Talk about inviting a ‘FOX’ into a henhouse.
May my letter greet you well and please don’t take it personally. This is just so important that it needed to be addressed frankly, as the implications of ignoring these impacts could cause irreparable harm on a grand scale. The startling and vast majority of Facebook users already can’t tell the difference between journalism and fake news. Neither can students. At the end of the day we need everyone to comprehend the facts to develop sound public policy, more than anyone needs a shot at quick money to make the business of journalism an easier ride. If we value our democracy we will have to commit to defending it with tax dollars to fund the CBC away from temptation and the advertorial mirage. (12. original / archive, 13. original / archive, 14. original / archive, 15. original / archive)
In closing, I kindly leave you with a sample of public sentiments to assist with your deliberations.
Yours very truly,
May 7, 2020
Part of the challenge in finding a cure for the COVID-19 pandemic is determining the original source of infection. The majority of scientists are convinced it came from bats, but they don’t yet know how it transmitted to humans. Others suggest it was caused by accidental release from a research lab, while war hawks propose theories that relate to a bioweapon. But the best answer to complex mysteries is often simple and Free The Press Canada has determined the likely culprit.
The solution for this missing link is so unassuming that it was under everyone’s nose all along. The records have existed since the 1700’s and this bat-to-human conduit is cited as the legal basis for the American Empire. It’s the original cause of blackbirding (kidnapping) and Chinese slavery, Indigenous slavery, as well as Black slavery, in case anyone didn’t grasp the meaning of that famous Beatles song. It solidified Peru’s existence and reshaped entire countries in South America. It poured the foundation for British and European wealth. It won and lost wars as a prime ingredient to make gunpowder. Its Indigenous name appears in an early American law and it traces all the way back to 5,000 years ago, as a resource worshipped by the Incas. (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive, 4. original / archive, 5. original / archive, 6. original / archive, 7. original / archive, 8. original / archive, 9. original / archive, 10. original / archive, 11. original / archive, 12. original / archive, 13. original – PDF)
Today this product is exported by Africa and Asia and it can fetch as much as $350USD per ton, or $2,400USD every three hours with a very small crew of labourers. The organic food revolution, hydroponic agriculture, and the legalization of marijuana have made it so popular again that western grandmothers are trying to produce their own. The colloquial phrase ‘bat-sh*t-crazy’ may even be derived from this common carrier of several coronavirus types. So what could be in everyone’s garden shed that has the potential to elevate or wipe out the human race, depending on the quality of each batch? (14. original / archive, 15. original / archive, 16. original / archive)
Bat Guano – The Garden Saviour
Bat guano is the feces of this hideous looking creature that makes a cameo appearance each year at Halloween. It’s long been known as the best crop fertilizer on earth, at half the cost of chemical competitors and usually with no negative side effects. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that comes with organic certification and it gained special prominence with cannabis producers, as well as moms and dads with tabletop hydroponic kits. (17. original / archive, 18. original / archive, 19. original / archive)
The high concentrations of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and potassium are so effective that bat guano can rehabilitate soil and reduce the need for crop rotation in large agricultural operations. It is Mother Nature’s wonder drug and can be used in the pharmaceutical setting to grow the ingredients used in medicines that are increasingly sourced in China. That’s not to suggest guano residues could appear in medications, but the workers who handle raw materials at the beginning of the supply chain may certainly come in contact with it. (20. original / archive, 21. original / archive)
The versatility of guano is far greater than industrial grow-ops and it can be found just as easily at community gardens and retirement villas. Across the world in Portland, Oregon a seniors residence is getting into the guano business to support the retiree neighbourhood, in addition to a farmers market and popular local restaurant. Plants as delicate as lettuce are treated with the natural fertilizer and it’s reported to sweeten the taste of produce as an added benefit. (22. original / archive, 23. original / archive, 24. original / archive)
Bat guano is also easy to purchase, if you’re not down with keeping them as pets to generate a self-sustaining and free supply. It can be found through Walmart, Amazon, Alibaba, or any hydroponic store. It comes in dry and wet ‘tea’ slurries that are pre-mixed to make using it rather simple. This wonder-dust is so spectacular that it can allegedly grow pumpkins the size of Smart cars. It’s possible there may be off-label uses in the beauty market as well. (25. original / archive, 26. original / archive, 27. original / archive, 28. original / archive, 29. original / archive, 30. original / archive)
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Needless to say there’s an obvious means of transmission between bats and humans that strikes at the heart of the global food chain and every nation’s ports of entry. It’s further been discovered that coronavirus and COVID-19 can be spread to humans through fecal matter. (31. original / archive)
Bat Guano – The Agent Of Death
Unbeknownst to the vast majority of home gardeners and organic farms, bat guano was confirmed by the Canadian government to be contaminated with the Ebola virus in years prior. (32. original / archive)
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Bats are also an established carrier of several coronavirus types, according to the Wuhan lab researcher who is central to the current pandemic. A single cave can produce numerous samples of various strains, meaning they’re a plausible breeding ground for mutations as bats interact with each other and the natural environment. (33. original / archive)
Through the guano specifically, bats can infect humans with histoplasmosis and it has much in common with the symptoms of COVID-19. Although the former is bacterial and the latter is viral, complications can result in death for young children, seniors, and immuno-compromised patients in both examples. (34. original / archive, 35. original – PDF)
Research on the coronavirus family appears to be limited to the bats directly, or humans directly, but little is known about the bridge between them. At least that’s what the mainstream media and governments generally report. But bat guano serves as that very connection and Canada highlighted its ability to vector an even deadlier virus, many years before the appearance of COVID-19.
Despite the sparse availability of public data, relevant studies have been conducted involving bat guano since 2006. The World Health Organization (WHO) participated in that early sequencing more than a decade ago. It was determined that bat guano carries the family of coronaviruses in a study arising from the guano caves (mines) in Thailand. Deeper investigation of that yearlong data appears to indicate that positive samples follow a cyclical pattern that coincides with spring and fall flu seasons as well. The guano seems to test negative during the summer and winter months and this phenomenon may need to be considered in future research endeavours to achieve an unbiased interpretation. (36. original / archive)
Another study was conducted by scientists in Myanmar from May 2016 to August 2018. Testing was done by the University of California – Davis that produced results consistent with Thailand. They confirmed coronavirus pathogens in bat guano including new strains that hadn’t been discovered prior, as well as seasonal fluctuations. They also identified that guano samples produce a much higher rate of infection than oral and rectal swabs taken from bats. (37. original / archive)
Islands in the Western Indian Ocean were studied from 2014 to 2015, but the researchers failed to sample guano and only tested the bats. Even lacking that crucial context, several types of coronavirus were detected that share a relationship to COV strains in Africa. Unfortunately the authors pursued their study with a mistaken hypothesis that an intermediary host is required to affect humans, so they were left with questions about transmission pathways. Due to that regrettable bias, they overlooked the role of bat guano in the spread between different regions. (38. original / archive)
The Smoking Gun
Free The Press Canada did its own research to assess the prevalence of bat guano testing on Google Scholar. It was there that a noteworthy result appeared, amounting to a smoking gun. (39. original / archive)
In October 2018, genomic researchers completed the sequence for a bat guano miner who tested positive for a coronavirus in Thailand. Coincidentally, he worked in the same region referenced earlier in a separate study assisted by the World Health Organization, from 2006/2007. (40. original / archive, 41. original / archive, 42. original – PDF)
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The results indicate that a bat guano miner in Thailand carried the same strain of coronavirus (99 percent match) as samples that were tested from Hong Kong in 2006. It came from the same group of pathogens (with a common ancestor) as samples arising from China and the United States in 2016 as well.
It’s unlikely that either superpower is responsible for infecting a bat cave in Thailand, where several coronavirus types are naturally occurring. The alternative is American and Chinese growers may have purchased guano fertilizer that originated from a Thai source. In any event what this demonstrates is an intercontinental transmission pathway that was indirectly established over a period of twelve years, specifically related to a guano mine.
Free The Press Canada stresses that this data via Thailand doesn’t pinpoint the exact origin of the current COVID-19 pandemic. It doesn’t make any individual country responsible for the spread of coronaviruses. Guano mining occurs on every continent except Antarctica and every country may contribute to infection rates by failing to regulate this product as a hazardous substance. Every country that has bats also has a wide array of coronaviruses lurking within them. Therefore comprehensive study of bat guano in its wet and dry forms is immediately required and it may assist scientists to address COVID-19 from this perspective. (43. original / archive)
Origin of the Spanish Flu remains a mystery akin to the way COVID-19 developed. Researchers may wish to revisit those theories with the guano aspect in mind, because during that era it was the primary ingredient in gunpowder and explosives. It may explain the peculiar onset of cases geographically. (44. original / archive, 45. original / archive)
Successive years of ‘cutting red tape’ to appease the stock market and business class has led us to this place. Regulations might require commitment to one’s product, but they were not designed to be the enemy. Instead they’ve been developed to safeguard human health and avert the insurmountable cost of failing to do so.
The freedom gained by corporations to ignore those responsibilities has resulted in the entire world’s lockdown and loss of the most basic collective freedoms required to beat the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no reason why a Q4 profit margin should result in the loss of visiting family, ability to celebrate birthdays and weddings, or permission to walk out the front door. Imprisoning the working class is not sustainable to generate dividends and every taxpayer is on the hook to pay for this debacle over the next entire decade. That behaviour represents an untenable proposition for business to outsource its overhead to every citizen on the planet.
In the case of bat guano, the few rules that do exist are woefully insufficient and incongruent from one region to another. For example, Canada dragged its feet with respect to classifying guano as a fertilizer so it didn’t fall within any regulatory category whatsoever. The United States has a conflict between which agency oversees the product and each state compounds the problem with different rules or lack thereof, depending on various governors. Certainly no country around the globe is testing guano for coronavirus as a condition of import, export, and public sale. (46. original / archive, 47. original / archive, 48. original / archive)
Bat guano remains a superior fertilizer that is also appropriate for organically certified agriculture. It’s safe in the vast majority of cases, but it only takes one bad batch, one bad season, or one susceptible cave to result in a pandemic. Strict testing and parameters must be implemented to protect this valuable resource, guano mining labourers, and the public. Strict guidelines need to be established for home gardeners who plan to experiment with backyard production and strict enforcement surrounding guano must be genuinely contemplated.
Furthermore, the effects of climate change are now severe enough to impact human health. A warming planet is predicted to affect the emergence of viruses, mutations, and intensity of contagious outbreaks. Bat caves are environmentally sensitive and given the detrimental consequences to the global economy under quarantine, it doesn’t seem wise to ignore the guano they produce when it’s a common additive to the food supply. (49. original / archive)
How Was Guano Overlooked?
International media is in a state of disrepair since the disruption of digital technology. In Canada the regular ‘beats’ were axed in a process of austerity and downsizing. Remaining reporters are now expected to cover any topic that arises while lacking the expertise to tackle complex subjects, especially related to science. The industry is fighting for its life as artificial intelligence (AI) is introduced to automate articles based on business data and algorithms. It’s removing humans from the equation who were able to evaluate context, history, demeanour, insincerity, conflicts of interest, and most importantly, fact-checking. (50. original / archive)
(Full disclosure: I was forced out of mainstream media because investigative journalism is quite expensive and it was the first ilk to be cut. That’s why I started Free The Press Canada, because you can take the reporter out of the newsroom but you can’t take the inquiring mind out of any journo worth their salt.)
The Fourth Estate is what informs governments in any democracy, while holding lawmakers to account. That this bat guano information was always available is proof that something went awry in the absence of subject matter experts to edit, assign, and report.
In North America there’s an extreme problem with media ownership too. No matter what anyone says, the free press has been muzzled by the billionaire class and this guano issue punctuates that unfortunate reality.
Pertaining to the Thai cave that tested positive for coronaviruses at various intervals from 2006 to 2018, there was one report from China and another from a multinational agency that is headquartered in Canada.
The South China Morning Post explained that despite the abundance of bat viruses, if they could make the leap to humans then we would already be extinct. The article emphasized the importance of bat meat to certain cultures and the value of guano to agriculture. It downplayed the rate of COVID-19 infections in Thailand and completely omitted that one of the cave’s miners contracted the coronavirus. It even disinformed readers by suggesting the guano is safe and that humans can only be infected through contact with bat saliva or urine. The erroneous article was then syndicated by Bloomberg in the United States. (51. original / archive)
In Canada, Reuters followed suit with an article about the same Thai cave a few weeks later. It produced a false title that claimed there was only a possible link between bat guano and human infection. Through that statement the editor denied evidence of the miner who contracted the coronavirus that was thoroughly studied. Reuters effectively denied the entire genomic sequence that was conducted on that person. (52. original / archive)
The body of the article goes on to describe the importance of bat guano to the agriculture industry. It implies that keeping the cave ‘clean’ protects miners from catching the coronavirus, at the same time discouraging belief that the guano could carry these pathogens. It further proposes the debunked hypothesis that coronaviruses require an intermediary to jump from bats to another host before the ability to infect humans. An interview with a miner (who’s in an absolute conflict of interest) reinforces this disinformation by claiming no one from the Thai caves has ever become ill from these bat-borne diseases. They assert the coronavirus didn’t originate there, despite undeniable proof in scientific journals that records several strains in that bat cave over a number of years.
No competing press agencies reported on the topic and neither of these entries was ever challenged in the headlines.
To understand how this could happen, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland used to work for Reuters as a managing director. Free The Press Canada is not in any way alleging collusion, but the Canadian government chose a sympathetic stance that is disinclined to point fingers. Reuters is also more than a media empire. It owns Thomson Financial, Thomson Legal & Regulatory, Thomson Reference, Scientific & Healthcare, as well as Thomson Learning. Under any of these banners, billionaire David Thomson could be looking to governments for various contracts and is therefore in a conflict of interest between serving the public and his personal wealth accumulation. (53. original / archive, 54. original / archive)
The bulk of competing newspapers in Canada are managed by Postmedia. This company is owned by American hedge funds, with a controlling interest that is deeply connected to David Pecker. Mr. Pecker is the same person who shielded President Trump in the Stormy Daniels scandal at the National Enquirer and his immunity deal with the Department of Justice may be in jeopardy over what Jeff Bezos claims is extortion. This is due to Pecker’s company acquiring his private text messages and an alleged threat for Bezos to stop investigating Trump or face the embarrassment of his intimate photos being published. Two prominent journalists also claimed to receive blackmail threats in a campaign to end their reporting about Trump, Pecker, Daniels, and the National Enquirer. (55. original / archive, 56. original / archive)
Concentrated and foreign media ownership is not supposed to be permitted in Canada, but for unknown reasons the Competition Bureau has refused to intervene throughout the tenure of both Conservative and Liberal governments. (57. original / archive)
On the stateside, fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos is owner of The Washington Post. He’s also the owner of Amazon, that has entered the media business to compete with Netflix while providing a marketplace for sellers to peddle their bat guano. If all of this wasn’t confusing enough, Bezos is friends with Michael Bloomberg, who is the owner of Bloomberg News. Bezos is the person who encouraged Bloomberg to run for president as a Democrat, in the effort to dethrone the Republican incumbent, Donald Trump. (58. original / archive)
Meanwhile in Asia, billionaire Jack Ma owns the South China Morning Post. He’s also the owner of Alibaba, that provides a marketplace for sellers to peddle their bat guano, in the identical manner as Jeff Bezos. Both men receive a cut for every bag of the natural fertilizer that passes through their platforms and could potentially carry the coronavirus around the entire world. Don’t forget that Ma further syndicates his articles through Bloomberg. (59. original / archive)
Canadian and American media are hopelessly compromised by partisan warfare, whether Liberal or Conservative, Democrat or Republican. Chinese media is directly controlled by the Communist government. Each of these factions has a financial interest in the success of bat guano and matters of food security. But none of the billionaires appear to have an interest in the survival of average citizens in relation to a pandemic. Instead the press keeps bantering about herd immunity that would cleave the weakest demographics from the global population.
This investigation was edited on September 28, 2019 at 12pm EDT. New sections have been added to the end of this article that identify greater issues concerning ethics, the media, and relations with Canadian politicians that may, or may not, constitute electoral interference.
September 23, 2019
In no way, shape, or form is Free The Press Canada defending or justifying past racist behaviour by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. However, the sensational release of brownface and blackface media depicting the Liberal Leader in his younger years raised numerous questions that require answers to confirm the provenance of this material – especially since it was never mentioned or released prior to the current election.
This investigation by Free The Press Canada has discovered several troubling issues that call the ethics of Time magazine into question, and by extension, its bombshell exposé about Trudeau. Due to these lapses in professionalism, it must also be asked if Time participated in foreign election meddling for partisan purposes.
In total, three examples of racist photographs and/or video have been released in succession by different news agencies. The first appeared in Time magazine, otherwise known as an American titan in news media (original / archive). It featured a picture of Trudeau dressed in brownface makeup for an Arabian Nights themed event, during his tenure as a teacher at the West Point Grey Academy private school (circa 2001).
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Source: Time magazine
Given that Time is an American enterprise, it raised suspicion that no Canadian media was approached with the original brownface scandal, to have any knowledge about the prime minister’s former transgression. No parliamentary bureau chiefs, with decades of sources and contacts, were prepared for this extremely damaging exposé. Even journalists hired by the Liberal government, and the Conservative opposition, are scrambling to make sense of how they got scooped by a foreign competitor.
Also given that foreign interference is a major issue in Western elections, it became prudent to examine the Time story with a skeptical lens. Free The Press Canada is an advocate of journalism ethics and periodically lectures on the Canadian university circuit (original / archive), so it undertook this analysis with a view to examining the power and means of foreign influence. With great surprise, the initial investigation of Time magazine led to curious discoveries within the article itself, as well as a web of deceit that surrounds the scandal.
The first issue with the infamous Time article is that reporters didn’t interview the purported source of the Arabian Nights photo, who they named as Michael Adamson. Instead they only paraphrase a disparate explanation regarding how Adamson came to possess this politically explosive evidence.
First they report he was involved with the West Point Grey Academy community, leaving readers to insinuate that Adamson may have participated with the school at the time of Trudeau’s employment. But the magazine follows up with a counter-statement that indicates Adamson only became aware of the offensive yearbook in July 2019, barely prior to the writ dropping for the current federal election. Time further describes Adamson as a “Vancouver businessman”, concealing his profession or any other information that would allow him to be identified and verified, according to Canadian journalism standards.
Oddly, Time addressed its source of the yearbook by name but it spoke on Adamson’s behalf, referring to him in the third-person. At no point does the magazine include a quote from the star of its story, who was apparently concerned enough to bring this matter to the attention of American media. When a source doesn’t wish to speak on the record due to fear of reprisal, it’s standard for a journalist to offer anonymous attribution. But that’s not what Time did. Instead it named Michael Adamson as a token lightning rod, in an effort to validate the magazine’s legitimacy and motive for unleashing the greatest scandal to rock another country’s election – its main economic trading partner, no less.
Less than 24-hours later, lead author, Anna Purna Kambhampaty, granted an interview to NPR that only added to the confusion (original / archive). Because this is a Canadian scandal, the American press isn’t fully invested in chasing down the story and more gaps, as well as misinformation, were subsequently seeded through NPR‘s Morning Edition radio show.
On the program Kambhampaty claims that she heard about the brownface photo from gossip circles in Vancouver, British Columbia.
GREENE: How did you get the photo? I mean, you’re not based in Canada, right?
KAMBHAMPATY: No, so I had heard about it as a source of gossip in Vancouver community and, you know, contacted a source to see the photo and was sent the yearbook. And – yeah. (Source: original / archive)
The host doesn’t question how Kambhampaty became involved with gossip circles based in Vancouver, despite the fact she’s a novice reporter, located across the continent in New York City. The internet makes the world a smaller place, but there is no explanation regarding how Kambhampaty became so deeply connected with Trudeau’s old stomping-grounds, to give her an edge unrivaled by any Canadian reporter whatsoever.
Moreover, Kambhampaty claims she heard about the gossip and contacted a source of her own volition, to get a copy of the photo she had presumably not seen yet. But in the original Time article, she fails to explain the gossip circle or that the magazine initiated contact with Michael Adamson. She fails to express how he became known to the reporter as someone who could provide Time with the evidence.
Instead it appears as though Adamson contacted Time magazine because he “felt it should be made public” (original / archive). This is a reckless tactic that has now imperiled every person in Canada with the name, Michael Adamson. This is especially true because no Canadian journalists can locate a Michael Adamson from Vancouver to verify his participation as a source. No Canadian media can locate a gossip circle either, to verify the American news could have come upon this information honestly. This is having very real consequences for innocent bystanders that will be addressed shortly.
This young lady further contradicts herself in the very next statement, made on the NPR program.
GREENE: So the Vancouver community, people were talking about it there. Is this like alumni of the school or who is – where was this gossip happening?
Anna Purna Kambhampaty claims on one hand there was a “gossip circle” that is frequented by former staff of the West Point Grey Academy, parents of former students, and parents of current students. But on the other hand, she confesses that only “a few people” were talking about it.
In colloquial language, “a few” is defined as three. In mathematical language, “a few” is defined as not many but more than one, and can mean as little as two. Regardless of the measurement, no Canadian reporters have been able to verify the existence of this circle. There is no record on Google prior to the Time article, no public forum for school alumni, and no group of social media accounts that can verify how Kambhampaty stumbled upon this information herself. There is a single Facebook group dedicated to the West Point Grey Academy alumni, but it’s closed to the public, no one new has joined in the past 30 days (covering the period of Time‘s investigation), and it has only five posts in the past 30 days that don’t lend to the description of a gossip circle (original / archive).
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At no point does Anna Purna Kambhampaty admit to receiving a tip, instead crediting her own ingenuity for the first big news story she would ever break in her brand new career.
The NPR interview is then contaminated with misleading information about the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
GREENE: OK, so you confirm its existence with some people. You have your hands on it. You and the magazine decide to publish it. What did Trudeau’s campaign say when you reached out to them?
KAMBHAMPATY: Right. So initially they said we need to take a look at the photograph. And after being sent a version of the photograph, they pretty much immediately confirmed that it was him. We tried speaking to the prime minister’s office directly. We’d left several voicemails and phone calls but never heard back from them. So we decided to go to the campaign. (Source: original / archive)
This biased report is doubly exacerbated by Kambhampaty’s Time article.
On Wednesday, Zita Astravas, the media relations lead of the Liberal Party of Canada, which Trudeau is the leader of, confirmed that the Prime Minister was in the photo. “It was a photo taken while he was teaching in Vancouver, at the school’s annual dinner which had a costume theme of ‘Arabian Nights.’ He attended with friends and colleagues dressed as a character from Aladdin,” said Astravas. Trudeau is planning on addressing the photograph to the media later this evening, according to Astravas. The prime minister’s official director of communications did not return multiple calls. (Source: original / archive)
What Ms. Kambhampaty is incapable of understanding as a new American journalist is that the Prime Minister’s Office doesn’t function during the writ period of an election campaign. The government is legally dissolved and becomes a “caretaker government”, until a new one is elected. Only the civil service operates on a limited basis and this does not include speaking on behalf of members of that dissolved parliament.
During a caretaker government only the political parties can represent themselves and any incumbents, up to and including the prime minister. Due to Kambhampaty’s lack of worldly experience, she conveyed arrogance on behalf of the PMO and spent her time attempting to contact the wrong entity. This misunderstanding of constitutional monarchies, that are very different from the American government, led Time magazine to misrepresent Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. That no editor at Time possessed this knowledge to advise Kambhampaty, is evidence of negligence and why American media should not be in charge of covering the election in place of Canadians.
Unfortunately Anna Purna Kambhampaty wasn’t finished with this exercise in misrepresentation. In her next response to NPR, she failed to admit that Justin Trudeau had already given a public apology. She mentions the prime minister’s press conference for this exact purpose, but somehow omits that he ever said sorry. In some divine intervention, Kambhampaty insinuates that she discovered a Canadian who doesn’t apologize profusely, whether something was their fault or not. And Trudeau was at fault. But he did apologize more than once and torquing a story against the leader of another country, during an election, is still an act of foreign meddling, as well as journalistic fraud. Now NPR is suffering a hit to its reputation for giving Kambhampaty another soapbox to mislead the public.
GREENE: OK, so then you have Prime Minister Trudeau who we should say is fighting for his reelection right now. He addresses this controversy on his campaign plane. Talk about that and talk about what the reaction has been in Canada since you broke this.
KAMBHAMPATY: Right. So the reaction’s been pretty strong. A lot of Canadian politicians and interest groups are talking about it, calling upon him for an apology. And so far he’s been pretty honest. And he’s admitted to a past event that mirrors this, as well. (Source: original / archive)
Compounding the lack of professionalism at Time and requisite effort to publish a hit-piece, Kambhampaty claims she tried to contact others from the gala but came up empty-handed. Yet as soon as the brownface story went live, alumni from that Arabian Nights fundraising gala approached Canadian media to tell their side of the story.
On Omni Punjabi, Sunny Khurana defended the prime minister to ethnic Canadians in his primary language. (For American readers, please note that Canada embraces its multicultural identity, so much so that the Omni media brand carries mainstream programming in numerous languages.)
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Source: Globe & Mail
There was another side to this story that Kambhampaty ignored, for the sake of sensationalizing a purely negative reputational take-down of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It was neither fair, balanced, nor ethical coverage and the consequence is throwing a foreign election, in favour of regime change. This is a serious allegation and Free The Press Canada stands by it fully, with more reasons to follow.
Who Is Michael Adamson?
On the NPR radio program, Michael Adamson is omitted as Anna Purna Kambhampaty’s source for the brownface story. In the Time article, Michael Adamson is vaguely depicted as approaching Kambhampaty, when it was the other way around. So who is the real Michael Adamson?
All Canadian news agencies have been scouring the country and the greater Vancouver area for this illusive whistleblower. The White Pages telephone directory produces a few results, but two numbers for a Michael Adamson have long been disconnected. Another Michael Adamson who conducted business in Jody Wilson-Raybould’s riding has ceased to exist since the late 1990’s. Another lead comes from a cellphone number, but that Michael Adamson’s handset has been consistently turned off without any ability to receive voicemail. Free The Press Canada is aware that reporters were dispatched to the latter’s address, only to find there is nobody there. The West Point Grey Academy also hasn’t confirmed any association with a person named Michael Adamson.
The final possibility and the only Michael Adamson who will speak to the press is a fine artist who was educated at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, that is also located in Jody Wilson-Raybould’s riding of Vancouver-Granville. Although he hasn’t achieved the same level of fame as the Group of Seven, this Adamson is a prolific painter who is rather outspoken and celebrated in the global arts community. His work hangs in executive homes, private island mansions, and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). It’s also featured on the Design Inc. home renovation series that caters to the upper class (original / archive).
Michael Adamson, the fine artist, shares his extensive curriculum vitae at Concordia University (original / archive), as well as his art gallery website (original / archive). He has guest lectured at the University of Toronto and the Globe and Mail once described Adamson as a wunderkind painter who acknowledges the achievement of European colonization (original / archive).
In some ways this approach to art has put Adamson at odds with Canada’s Indigenous culture and much of the theology that is taught at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. His goal is to revive the arts community to become a sustainable lucrative profession, as opposed to art for art’s sake that is continuously subsidized to keep it afloat. He is offended by the ideology of socialism, and that in its own way puts him at odds with Justin Trudeau.
Digging deeper into Michael Adamson the fine artist, anyone can find his most recent work. In 2019 he partnered with True Patriot Love, a charity that supports more than 25,000 military families. It funds research to assist with their specialized needs that may include post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), physical rehabilitation, and civilian reintegration issues (original / archive).
This year Adamson contributed to fundraising by painting a helmet to honour the Navy for bringing home soldiers during WWI. It’s designed in the spirit of camouflage for the SS Olympia, a sister ship to the Titanic (original / archive).
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Source: Michael Adamson Studio
In the meantime, Michael Adamson has been active with exhibitions since the day he graduated from the Emily Carr University. His work is coveted in Britain, Sweden, Italy, Hong Kong, and Canada-wide, including Toronto, Ottawa, and Kelowna, British Columbia. Political reporters may also note that Kelowna is the location of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s family (original / archive) and the name of her husband’s business (with a minor spelling variation).
Regarding Adamson’s fundraising partner, True Patriot Love, there are significant political ties with the Conservative Party of Canada.
The charity’s CEO is Nick Booth, who worked in the United States and United Kingdom before taking this position in Canada. He oversaw Prince Harry’s charitable projects and instituted the Invictus Games, where the royal first courted Meghan Markle in Toronto, Ontario (original / archive).
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Source: True Patriot Love Foundation
This coming-out event for the royal couple led to significant media attention from the fashion industry, because the Duchess of Sussex has a best friend who helps her dress for public occasions and that special confidante is stylist, Jessica Mulroney. The daughter-in-law of former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney played one of the most important support roles during the subsequent royal wedding (original / archive).
Shaun Francis is the Chair of True Patriot Love. He serves on the board of directors at Fraser Institute and he’s been the Chair of the Progressive Conservative Ontario Fund. He’s accepted awards from former Conservative ministers and senators such as Peter MacKay, Steve Blaney, Julian Fantino, and Linda Frum (original / archive).
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Source: True Patriot Love Foundation
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Source: True Patriot Love Foundation
Crestview Strategy should ring a bell for pundits, as a public affairs agency that’s served prime ministers, premiers, and run election campaigns (original / archive). Within this company there are several executives who have served political parties. Ashton Arsenault managed a Conservative campaign in the 2015 federal election (original / archive). Zakery Blais was the legislative assistant to Minister David Lametti, before he became the new Attorney General to replace Jody Wilson-Raybould (original / archive). In fact, he joined Crestview immediately upon losing his job with the Trudeau Liberal government (original only, as Linkedin accounts can’t be archived).
At Crestview Strategy we can also find Andrew Brander. He worked for numerous ministers in the Harper Conservative government. He was Chief of Staff to Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition, prior to the Conservatives coming to power. More recently he’s been senior staff within the Ontario Conservative Ford government, and Director of Communications for the Ontario Minister of Finance. He’s also served multiple terms on the executive board of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party (original / archive).
They are joined by Melissa Caouette (original / archive), who was a special assistant to former Alberta Conservative Premier Jim Prentice (original). Celine Chang (original / archive) worked in the PMO of the Harper Conservative government, after a stint with the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party (original). Alex Chreston worked for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party under John Tory and Tim Hudak, before joining the team at Crestview Strategy (original / archive). Hal Danchilla has been shaping Conservative politics for the past 30 years in Alberta. He was Chief of Staff during the Klein administration, ran the leadership campaign of Stockwell Day, and now he advises the Jason Kenney government. His specialty is influencing public opinion (original / archive).
Crestview Strategy‘s COO is Matthew John. He was once the Manager of Outreach in Conservative Stephen Harper’s PMO. He also graduated from the Ivey School of Business, where Conservative MP Kellie Leitch was an executive and the Harper government funded to the tune of $5 million (original / archive). Joseph Lavoie came from the same cohort, as a staffer to former Conservative Minster John Baird and Director of Strategic Communications in the Prime Minister’s Office of Stephen Harper (PMO). He had a hand in the party’s digital voter platform and further implemented the Conservative government’s influence campaign in Iran (original / archive).
Michael Lohner was the Chief of Staff in Alberta’s Ralph Klein government. He was in the Conservative war room for each of the past three provincial elections (original / archive). Ginny Roth was also an organizer for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (original / archive).
Jaskaran Singh Sandhu is another executive with Crestview Strategy. He is a lawyer and former executive director of the World Sikh Organization of Canada (original / archive). When news of the brownface scandal broke at Time magazine, he immediately hit the media circuit to criticize Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and he discussed the Liberal Party’s inability to defend the interests of racial minorities in light of this scandal (original / archive). In this regard, Sandhu’s comments are justified and no one is denying that brownface and blackface displays are racist. But it’s what he told a particular radio host that may be cause for deeper investigation.
On September 19, 2019, less than 24-hours after Trudeau’s public apology, Jaskaran Singh Sandhu appeared on the John Oakley Show (original). Oakley is better known as the person Rob Ford thanked during an election victory speech for giving him a weekly spot on the 640am program to energize Conservative voters (original / archive).
In talk radio it’s common practice for the host to discuss questions and answers with the guest beforehand, to ensure enough time is allotted for the interview. Free The Press Canada does not have evidence of that discussion, but Jaskaran Singh Sandhu and John Oakley each confirm a troubling detail early in the podcast. Oakley claims the brownface photo at the heart of the Time exposé was actually a product of opposition research by a political campaign team in this election. Sandhu confirms the same in his response and this runs contrary to the Time narrative that credits a phantom Michael Adamson, who no one can manage to find in Canada.
If this information is true, it would mean that a party or candidate was the real source behind the Time article and that someone solicited a foreign entity to interfere in the Canadian election, instead of transparently approaching the Canadian media. It would also mean that Time magazine committed an international fraud by naming an incorrect source to shield the real leaker and meddled with a foreign election to benefit that person. In the alternative, if this is not true, then a Canadian lawyer and radio host spread misinformation through a public broadcast.
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Source: John Oakley Show
(Free The Press Canada has a backup copy of this radio program, in the event this clip becomes deleted by Global.)
Finally, Mark Spiro is one of the founders of Crestview Strategy (original / archive). He is well known as a “high-powered Conservative strategist” (original / archive) and his specialty is manipulating public opinion.
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Source: Crestview Strategy
Circling back to the True Patriot Love Foundation that is involved with Michael Adamson (the fine artist), we also find Rick Byers on the executive board (original / archive). He has an extensive history working for provincial and federal Conservative parties, as well as former Minister of Finance Michael Wilson, in the Mulroney Conservative government (original / archive). Wilson helped negotiate the original NAFTA deal and he was later elevated to become Canada’s Ambassador to Washington by the Harper Conservative administration. In that position Wilson faced a scandal that rocked the party and sparked an investigation. He was implicated in leaks to Canadian media that meddled with Barack Obama’s run for president (original – subscription / archive – public). More recently, Rick Byers was vying to become the Conservative candidate for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound in the current federal election (original / archive).
So there is noteworthy overlap between the True Patriot Love Foundation, Crestview Strategy, and Conservative parties, whether federal or provincial. As a result of that suspicion, Michael Adamson (the fine artist) has been facing intense scrutiny in the mission to discover the infamous Time magazine leaker.
Mr. Adamson (the fine artist) was gracious enough to grant Free The Press Canada a 4.5 hour interview in the effort to clear his name. When asked if he was responsible,
“Did I do something that I would call treason? Uh, no. Thank you very much. Did I send this negative information about a standing PM to a foreign entity? I certainly did not. Thank you very much.”
This spirited painter was adamant and unwavering for the entire conversation long. The question was re-approached from many directions and every time Adamson was firm. He relayed what information he could to help the investigation along, including details about getting calls from other Michael Adamsons in different parts of the country, who were trying to figure out which one of them it was. It sounded like a micro version of something akin to Where’s Waldo.
But the discussions between Michaels were anything but funny because each of them is concerned in one way or another. They’re being harassed by numerous calls from the press, partisans, and curious sleuths. Some are worried about the negative impact that a case of mistaken identity could have on their work. Michael Adamson (the fine artist) is perhaps the most affected, because his reputation is everything in art and he has an extra obligation to keep his clients’ business private. For the record, he would not divulge the name of a single patron.
The exculpatory evidence in Adamson’s favour is his ardent and libertarian rejection of party politics. He also has a supreme respect for military and the rule of law, that causes him to believe the leak to Time magazine was an actual act of treason. He is questioning if someone fabricated this name out of the blue, or if anyone he knows used his name on a whim, or maybe even maliciously. However hard the public is wondering who the Time leaker is, Michael Adamson (the fine artist) won’t be resting easy until that person is found. This brownface scandal has global media attention and there’s no telling what a stranger might do, when that many people in the world are angry and they’re in prospective markets where Adamson is expected to feature his work at art exhibits.
In support of Adamson’s denial, he shared an email with Free The Press Canada that was sent by him to the lead author at Time, Anna Purna Kambhampaty. In his message he shares legal considerations about the accuracy of her story and the unreasonable harm it is causing to bystanders.
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Source: Michael Adamson
After 4.5 hours of interrogation, Free The Press Canada is reasonably convinced that Michael Adamson (the fine artist) is not responsible for this controversy. Despite the curious connections between the charity that sought his support and the Conservative political machine, his clientele spans every belief system from Toronto to Tokyo and Kelowna to the United Kingdom.
Who Is Anna Purna Kambhampaty?
Lead author of the Time exposé, Anna Purna Kambhampaty, graduated from a private American Christian high school in 2015 (original / archive). She hails from Brooklyn, New York and deleted her own website upon breaking the story about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Fortunately the Google cache retained a copy of Kambhampaty’s page (archive). Although it doesn’t list her educational experience, it appears she began in the journalism industry quite recently.
More details can be gleaned from Kambhampaty’s Linkedin account (original). She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Information Science from Cornell University with emphasis on economics, data, and app development courses – but none pertaining to bona fide journalism.
This may explain why Anna Purna Kambhampaty didn’t pursue a quote from her purported source, Michael Adamson. She didn’t inquire how the source came to posses an inflammatory yearbook, from eighteen years ago and a school he never attended. She didn’t pursue a comment from Trudeau prior to publishing and didn’t know where to contact when attempting to verify her own story. Ms. Kambhampaty was so lax in her investigation that she managed to put several innocent people in harm’s way by failing to collect enough details. These are all basic requirements to differentiate the news from tabloids and advertising.
But what Kambhampaty does have is experience with databases, writing code, and working for politicians (original). She spent time assisting the Mayor’s Office in Syracuse, New York with data-driven techniques for managing municipal issues. She also campaigned for Dan Maffei in the same city, who was eventually appointed by President Donald Trump to become Commissioner of the Federal Maritime Commission.
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This aspiring data maverick was interested in the politics of social movements, coupled with brand recognition. Before graduating from Cornell University, Anna Purna Kambhampaty interned with CNBC as an interactive web developer (original). It was here that she was granted permission to write a single story under the guidance of a retail editor (original / archive).
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With no real study or experience reporting the news, this young religious ideologue made the leap from Cornell University to become an intern at the New York Times. Strangely any description of her duties is omitted from the Linkedin profile, but Kambhampaty uses this opportunity as a springboard to attain subsequent employment with Time magazine. Stranger still, the former publication doesn’t return any search results that acknowledge her participation (original / archive).
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The very few articles penned by Anna Purna Kambhampaty at Time magazine are primarily focused on fashion’s relationship to politics (original / archive). She began the job at the same time Michael Adamson claims to have discovered the controversial brownface photo of the prime minister.
In any event, Free The Press Canada is not familiar with mainstream media allowing an untested junior to break a major scandal that will directly impact a foreign election. Either Time magazine is failing journalism ethics, or there is more to this curious backstory.
Inspection of Kambhampaty’s Twitter account only adds to the doubtful intrigue (original / archive). She’s been a member since 2011 with only six hundred followers, despite claiming to be a reporter for at least four major publishers in the United States of America. She posted about the Trudeau scandal, albeit briefly and without engaging her audience. She also isn’t responding to any requests for interviews made by Canadian reporters. Kambhampaty hasn’t responded to Michael Adamson (the fine artist) either.
One person asked how they could trust her account was real when it wasn’t verified by Twitter. In the only banter with her readership, Kambhampaty responds a while later with the accredited blue check mark as requested (original / archive). According to Twitter they stopped verifying accounts, so this verification-on-demand service appears to be anomalous (original / archive).
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Source: Twitter & Archive.is
But make no mistake that Anna Purna Kambhampaty has skills. It’s just that they’re more political and data-driven than her experience with mainstream journalism. Upon further inspection, Free The Press Canada was able to locate a more personal venue where Kambhampaty published a pet project. It’s of such an ilk that it has the potential to make her the darling of personalities like Steve Bannon and Peter Thiel.
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Source: Anna Kambhampaty & Medium.com
Pocket Democracy is not for the faint-of-heart, or anyone who takes issue with Cambridge Analytica. Kambhampaty is designing a way to obtain photographs of every ballot and influence voters in their private space, as they’re standing in front of the ballot box. It works through augmented reality, sentiment analysis, and psychographic manipulation – with no apologies, security measures, quality control, or regard for the legalities (original / archive).
Anna Purna Kambhampaty admits this system will suffer from biases, depending which sources are aggregated to form an opinion and advise voters about the suitability of political candidates. That source bias is further amplified by any biases the coder may harbour. She suggests that issue could be mitigated as the collection of data grows larger; but if misinformation gets into the system, she fails to consider how it will magnify the biases exponentially.
Moreover, the Pocket Democracy program gives no thought to preventing fake news from entering the equation. It doesn’t seek to limit partisan sources, PAC material, or special interest groups from influencing voters at the very moment they’re casting a ballot.
Ms. Kambhampaty manages to demonstrate this point about bias in her example without realizing it. In a mock presentation, she selects Democrat Andrew Cuomo to solicit Pocket Democracy‘s recommendation (original / archive).
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Source: Anna Kambhampaty & Medium.com
The first criterion to rate Cuomo as a politician is his position on abortion. Because he favours women’s rights, it lists the Democrat with 74 percent negative sentiment. If someone had used this app while in the process of voting, Kambhampaty clearly programmed the analysis to reject the Governor of New York based on harder right policies that are more favourable, in her opinion.
Coincidentally, Anna Purna Kambhampaty has no remarkable relationship with Canada, except through a Christian prep school that supports the anti-abortion lobby and National March For Life that is syndicated in Ottawa on Parliament Hill (original / archive). Every year they’re joined by Conservative and Republican politicians who inevitably call for leaders like Justin Trudeau to be banished from government.
The Canadian Context
No one is able to fully resolve the mystery surrounding “Vancouver businessman, Michael Adamson” or how Anna Purna Kambhampaty might have become acquainted with him. It’s worth noting however, that the West Point Grey Academy is adjacent to Jody Wilson-Raybould’s riding and that’s where opposition research discovered the brownface material – or an invisible man discovered it – depending who’s telling the story. But next door in the riding of Vancouver-Quadra, Liberal Joyce Murray is defending her seat and position as President of the Treasury Board (original / archive). Former Conservative Prime Minister Kim Campbell calls this area home and she’s been actively involved with a number of the individuals mentioned in this report as well (original).
This mystery is exacerbated by other details that also don’t appear to add up. For example, Warren Kinsella was on top of the Trudeau scandal before any other reporters in Canada. His article in the Toronto Sun was published exactly 2-hours after the Time exposé, but it’s hard to tell anymore because the publication re-dated his entry for an entire day later.
The first edition from Time happened on September 18, 2019 at 6:32pm EDT (archive).
The first edition from Kinsella was released on September 18, 2019 by at least 8:35pm EDT (archive).
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Source: Toronto Sun & Archive.is
Now the same article by Warren Kinsella reports that it wasn’t published until September 19, 2019 by at least 11:42am EDT (archive).
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Source: Toronto Sun & Archive.is
Despite any reason for the incompatible timestamps at the Toronto Sun, the original material suggests that Kinsella wrote approximately fifteen paragraphs (that included the effort of hyperlinked sources), had it edited, fact-checked, formatted for publishing, and posted within a 2-hour time frame. He covered Trudeau, Wilson-Raybould, and American politicos, but didn’t credit Time magazine with breaking the scandal. He doesn’t even explain where he obtained a copy of the offensive photograph.
Free The Press Canada reiterates that it does not support brownface, blackface, or any other racist behaviour. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must make amends and millions of people have been hurt by his past actions. This needs to be a learning opportunity that helps Canadians grow and become better at eradicating the inherent racism that pervades our culture. The Conservatives, NDP, Green Party, and People’s Party have all been similarly impacted by racial scandals. This is no time to use racism as a manipulative tool, reserved for campaign war rooms and foreign interference. It is a problem that needs solving through education, tolerance, inclusiveness, and respect for one another.
With that said, there is enough evidence of possible foreign meddling to warrant a proper investigation by Elections Canada. Time magazine will not respond to multiple queries to resolve these inconsistencies and only a formal enforcement body could have the power to compel answers. It is inappropriate to spark an international scandal that affects the federal election and hide behind a wall of silence. Anna Purna Kambhampaty must be accountable for the controversy she unleashed on Canadians. Certainly all the innocent Michael Adamsons deserve to be released from the risk to person and livelihood that she carelessly unloaded upon them.
Jody Wilson-Raybould faces indirect scrutiny that has the potential to impact her campaign. It would be horrendously ironic if a scandal about racism was allowed to cause another schism with Indigenous nations. There is just as much at stake for them as there is for Justin Trudeau, in very different ways but due to the same dubious influences (original). Without legitimate answers, everyone will blame each other and a campaign of foreign influence will succeed in driving Canadians further apart.
This section has been added by Free The Press Canada. The edit occurred on September 28, 2019 at 12pm EDT, due to several new developments that impact the provenance of the brownface exposé regarding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In addition to the original investigation involving Time magazine, this new information implies that Elections Canada may need to investigate both foreign and domestic media behaviour to ensure the integrity of the federal election.
Global News Versus CTV News
Warren Kinsella and the Toronto Sun are not the only Canadian media that altered publication of the brownface scandal and failed to provide attribution for the materials they distributed.
On September 19, 2019, Mercedes Stephenson and Global News went live with exclusive video they obtained of Justin Trudeau dancing in blackface makeup, also from his younger years. The original story was archived by Free The Press Canada and it reported the short video clip was received from an unnamed source (archive).
Global News claimed the exclusive media was obtained earlier in the week, that would have been the same period Time magazine received a yearbook. As the lead author, Stephenson reported that Global News was able to locate the person who filmed Trudeau (based on information provided by the source), but she failed to explain how that source became the guardian of this political dynamite. Whoever filmed the prime minister declined to verify the video, or describe the time and place where it originated. Stephenson also didn’t explain why Global News withheld the name of its source. There was no assertion of anonymity due to fear of reprisal. It was just a video that came from somewhere secret, without any reason whatsoever. This behaviour doesn’t comply with the most basic Canadian journalism standards.
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Source: Global News & Archive.is
Later in the same day, David Akin from Global News followed up with the prime minister during a scrum. Instead of asking a straightforward question he said the following,
I know there’ll be a lot of people here today of all races who will be, uh, very happy to hear you denounce, uh, racism in all its form and your earlier behaviour. But the prime minister’s job was not created so you could work through your issues. Maybe it’s time that you realize you’re not the indispensable man, as the Leader of the Liberal Party, as the Prime Minister. You have very many capable leaders in your party that perhaps you should step aside, for some reflection, for, some more understanding and discussion. Have you considered asking someone else to lead the party in this election? (Source: original / archive)
David Akin’s statement, that preceded any question, also fails the ethical standards required by Canadian media. The chief political correspondent for Global News directly attempted to interfere in the election by telling Justin Trudeau to quit the campaign midway, due to his personal interpretation of what was best for Justin Trudeau and/or the country. It would be unprecedented for a reigning prime minister or president to abandon an election. Akin’s assertion is not only unethical and inappropriate; it’s also a preposterous suggestion that he used Global News to distribute across Canada and worldwide.
After Justin Trudeau responds, David Akin continues with a second question that pressures the Liberals to stop performing opposition research on other parties, since the prime minister was also guilty of poor behaviour in the past. Prior to the brownface scandal, that research was focused on Conservative candidates who displayed racist, anti-abortion, and anti-gay sentiments. There can be no other conclusion than David Akin was interfering on behalf of the Conservative Party of Canada, and abusing his position in the Canadian media to advance partisan interests.
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Source: Global News
As David Akin was on the campaign trail with Justin Trudeau in Manitoba, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was making a confession on CTV News in Quebec. It caught everyone by surprise when the latter admitted it was the Conservative Party that gave the controversial video of Trudeau to a ‘responsible news outlet for verification’. This contradicted Mercedes Stephenson’s report at Global News that attempted, unethically, to conceal her ‘exclusive’ source (original / archive).
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Source: CTV News
The written report by CTV News that covered Andrew Scheer’s confession was doubly documented by a producer on video.
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Once this cat was out of the bag, Mercedes Stephenson and Global News were forced to amend their story. The piece was extensively rewritten, so much so that the first and second editions can’t be compared side-by-side anymore. The new article kept the same title and the same timestamp despite being fundamentally altered, without noting the piece was edited to name the Conservative Party as the secret Global News source. Again this fails journalistic standards and in this case it represents an act of deliberate journalistic fraud, in the opinion of Free The Press Canada (original / archive).
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Source: Global News
In no uncertain terms, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer admitted to using Global News as a partisan researcher. Because Mercedes Stephenson also tried to conceal the Conservative Party as her source, it indicates that Global News was a willing partner in this opposition research. Global News provided this service-in-kind and it must be reported to Elections Canada as a political donation.
Raising further concern, Mercedes Stephenson is a product of the U.S. Pentagon, as well as the American army. She was also a Koch Fellow in Defense and National Security Policy in the United States (original / archive).
The Koch brothers are infamously known as key Republican operatives who dabble in dark money, and who harbour an extreme disdain for the Liberal Party of Canada. And Stephenson is otherwise known as the boss of David Akin at Global News (original / archive).
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Source: Mercedes Stephenson & Twitter
The Second Unattributed Photo
Although serendipity and CTV News managed to catch Global News red-handed, the former also failed to attribute its use of a second brownface photograph. Another image of Justin Trudeau began circulating mainstream media, but no one was willing to say who gave it to the press corps. The only attribution was that it appeared in a West Point Grey Academy newsletter that detailed the Arabian Nights themed gala (original / archive).
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Source: CTV News
A photo from the West Point Grey Academy yearbook arose in Time magazine, but this newsletter appeared from nowhere and it was being cited without attribution in all news publications across Canada. Free The Press Canada had to investigate to locate its original use by reporters.
The first appearance of an alternate Arabian Nights photo seems to have occurred in the Niagara Falls Review in an article by Ray Spiteri (original / archive). The Niagara Falls news is part of the Southern Ontario market in the coveted 905 area code. It partners with the Welland Tribune and St. Catharines Standard within the Torstar network, and all productions syndicated the same story with the same unattributed image as CTV News was sharing with its audience.
The Southern Ontario newspaper collaboration used the photo as an opportunity to embarrass all Liberal candidates in the region. It quite specifically painted the Liberals as flawed and the Conservatives as righteous and free of racial scandals, despite the fact they have a continuing problem with racist candidates and the Liberal examples are from two-to-three decades ago (original – with photo / archive – text only).
Upon deeper investigation, Free The Press Canada was able to find an explanation for the second image and it arose in alternative press at Canadaland, in a blog by Robert Jago (original / archive). Mr. Jago is a well known Indigenous activist from Quebec who strongly dislikes the Liberals.
In the blog post Jago claims the second Arabian Nights image was always available in the Wayback Machine archive since 2004. Although this is technically true, Jago’s innocent claim doesn’t seem to hold water. Inspection of the archived PDF file presents a few challenges, in that it isn’t searchable in the database by the name of West Point Grey Academy (search results). It isn’t searchable to find the name Justin Trudeau and it really isn’t searchable at all as a PDF, with the only identifying information as “April2001.pdf” (Wayback archive).
Furthermore, Justin Trudeau is not identified in the Arabian Nights gala coverage and the photo where he appears in brownface isn’t identifiable either. The photos are very small and all fit on a single page, lacking any notation of who appears in them.
Free The Press Canada sincerely regrets any ill feelings caused by examining Robert Jago’s work from a negative perspective. Discussing racism that has historically impacted Indigenous nations and continues to the present day is particularly challenging and no offence is meant toward Mr. Jago. Free The Press Canada reiterates this investigation is focused on election interference and press ethics. It does not dispute that Indigenous Peoples are discriminated against, nor does it lack compassion for the original inhabitants.
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Original Source: Wayback Machine
Regardless of how Robert Jago was inspired to locate the West Point Grey Academy newsletter, it doesn’t change the fact that all mainstream media failed to provide attribution to either Jago or the Wayback Machine. All of the biggest names in Canadian media failed this ethical duty, in the most critical reports they’ve ever written about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. According to all reports, the second image came from nowhere and everywhere at the same time.
Jason Kenney & Time Magazine
On September 26, 2019, Time magazine published a new edition. It featured a cover with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appearing stoically defeated. The story arose from an interview that was conducted by Time‘s editor-at-large, Ian Bremmer, before his novice reporter had released the contaminated exposé that turned the Canadian election on its head (original / archive).
The interview that was published on the heels of that hit-piece had occurred on September 3, 2019. Bremmer gives no reason for sitting on it for two weeks, until after Kambhampaty received a copy of the yearbook and the writ had dropped to commence the election.
In a departure from Ian Bremmer’s former stature as a respected academic, he manages to blame Trudeau for complying with the American order to arrest Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou, as though it was somehow Canada’s idea. He further blamed Canada for running afoul of Saudi Arabia, as if the murder of Jamal Khashoggi means nothing to the American press. This display is partisan and shameful enough that Bremmer tries to assert the new world order belongs to populism. At every turn he declares liberalism dead and depicts Western democracy as obsolete.
This exercise in gaslighting a prime minister in a cover story is truly amazing and it doesn’t hide that it too is a hit-piece meant to help the Conservative Party. Bremmer is direct in his severely biased comparison within the opening two paragraphs (original / archive).
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Source: Time magazine
Time further denigrates other Western democracies such as France and Germany for not having populist leadership. In another incredulous leap, this editor-at-large relinquishes his hard-earned credentials to chastise Canada for failing to please Vladimir Putin.
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Source: Time magazine
Time‘s so-called interview of Justin Trudeau resembled nothing of the sort, as Ian Bremmer abused the space in the name of foreign interference and his prerogative to editorialize. In Canada this egregious display would not meet journalistic or ethical standards.
To drive the point home, or rather across the sovereign border, Bremmer interviews Alberta Premier Jason Kenney in the same edition and this time it’s a respectful if celebratory interview (original / archive).
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Source: Time magazine
The interview with Jason Kenney was however brutally edited. This cherry-picking throughout the partial transcript causes issues with words missing in certain sentences and questions with responses that sometimes aren’t applicable. If there was any doubt that Time magazine was partisan-meddling in the election, it is this article that seals the deal by providing contrast to illuminate Bremmer’s incredible and purposeful biases (original / archive).
But the editor’s prejudice against Liberal democracy might be better explained by his conflict-of-interest that he never bothers to disclose within the pieces he’s written. Ian Bremmer is also the president of Eurasia Group, “a political risk consultancy” (original / archive) and Canada’s former Conservative minister of foreign affairs, John Baird, is an advisor to his company (original / archive).
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Source: Time magazine & Archive.is
At Eurasia Group the two men are attempting to ‘redefine’ Canada’s energy and oil strategy, against the grain of a Trudeau Liberal government and its commitment to a carbon tax in the effort to mitigate climate change (original / archive).
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Source: Eurasia Group
John Baird and Jason Kenney were both cabinet ministers in the Harper government and Kenney is currently being wooed by Ian Bremmer, of Time magazine and the Eurasia Group.
Although Bremmer failed to disclose this additional conflict-of-interest, he met with Kenney on behalf of Eurasia Group, two conspicuous days before the brownface scandal was published (original / archive). Two days before Time launched its reputational take-down of the Liberal prime minister is when Anna Purna Kambhampaty claims to have received the scandalous yearbook. Two days earlier is when Global News received the video from the Conservative Party, and two days earlier is when the Niagara Falls Review discovered the unattributed second photo from the West Point Grey Academy newsletter.
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Source: Jason Kenney & Twitter
A case of divine timing is all the Canadian media will admit and the Conservative Party’s American operatives are refusing to answer any questions. But Andrew Scheer was in Quebec when Robert Jago published in Canadaland. Scheer also confessed it was the Conservatives who secretly partnered with Global News. Jason Kenney was with the editor of Time at the very moment a yearbook appeared, and Doug Ford was travelling to meet up with Kenney on a political tour of the United States. That may have easily put him at the border in Niagara Falls when the Review received its hot tip (original only).
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Michael Adamson & Christy Clark
In response to this investigation by Free The Press Canada, the Globe and Mail took up the challenge to locate Michael Adamson in Vancouver, British Columbia. With two journalists supported by another three researchers, they were also unsuccessful in securing a statement or interview just like everyone else who tried before them. What resulted was a bizarre story that reported on the Adamsons’ travel complaints that were posted online, and one account of the phone number being disconnected upon contact from the media (original – subscription / archive – public).
But this did assist Free The Press Canada with some important clues. The Globe and Mail painted a picture of a very wealthy Michael Adamson who also owned a luxury property in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was reported to be a generous donor to the St. George’s private school in Vancouver, that competes directly with the West Point Grey Academy where Justin Trudeau was once a teacher.
The Globe and Mail dug up some records that indicate Adamson also supported Cornell University, where Anna Purna Kambhampaty was a student before her new job at Time magazine and where she invented the dangerous Pocket Democracy voting application. They noted that Kambhampaty was friends with a young man by the name of Bennet Tadashi Adamson, and he is the son of this mysterious character who purportedly discovered the scandalized yearbook.
Unfortunately the Globe and Mail came up with little else and Free The Press Canada responded that this story was insufficient to resolve the issues of foreign election interference (original / archive). It amounted to a distraction that insinuated there was nothing to see here.
The Globe and Mail didn’t take issue with Kambhampaty’s journalistic fraud. But ethical considerations should have dictated that Time magazine couldn’t allow the rookie reporter to use a personal friend as a source. The story should have been handed to a different journalist and if there was no other option, she was obligated to disclose this conflict-of-interest transparently within the article.
Free The Press Canada became concerned that the Globe and Mail scoured the internet and Kambhampaty’s social accounts without finding a significant person of interest, who is also close friends with Bennet Tadashi Adamson. Inspecting the latter’s Facebook account places Hamish Marissen-Clark at the top of Adamson’s list (original only).
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Hamish Marissen-Clark is the son of former British Columbia Premier Christy Clark. He attended St. Georges private school with Bennet Tadashi Adamson in Vancouver, where the senior Adamson was a gracious donor and the parents would have known each another. After graduation both the boys departed to the United States for university and that’s where the friendship ignited with Time magazine’s Anna Purna Kambhampaty.
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Since Free The Press Canada discovered this on September 27, 2019 and hinted there was a shocking twist coming to the story, Google became scrubbed to erase that very information by the morning of today, September 28, 2019. All that’s left are the screencaps to prove what’s now been edited in one of the fastest turnaround times on the internet.
The young Mr. Marissen-Clark is now an adult and he’s heavily involved in theatrical arts. He’s also spent time in New York, where both Adamson and Kambhampaty are located since everyone graduated from high school.
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The former premier’s son emphatically supports the arts and he celebrated an investment in the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, where the fine artist Michael Adamson had attended and became wrongly implicated in the brownface scandal.
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Although Free The Press Canada doesn’t know what role Michael Adamson (the philanthropist), Bennet Adamson, Hamish Marissen-Clark, Christy Clark, or Jason Kenney might have played, it is clear that someone from Canada solicited a powerful American to meddle in the federal election with zero accountability and deceitful intent. The provenance of Anna Purna Kambhampaty’s story still can’t be verified and the dubious young reporter continues to decline contact with any media organizations in Canada to atone for her misrepresentation.
In the meantime Christy Clark continues to hit the media circuit, in support of Jason Kenney’s agenda and to criticize Justin Trudeau.
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Last but not least is the latest press release from Michael Adamson (the philanthropist). When it became clear that Free The Press Canada wouldn’t be deterred from telling this story, Adamson finally dispatched a statement through the Newswire service on September 27, 2019. In it he repeats the identical characterization that was communicated by Anna Purna Kambhampaty in the Time magazine article. The only new information is that he’s asking for his family’s privacy (original / archive).
The Newswire service is not free and a press release that is distributed Canada-wide costs a flat fee of $1,160 CAD. Therefore Michael Adamson (the philanthropist) has paid to cover up whatever it is that’s happened here.
All the individuals mentioned in this investigation are presumed innocent of wrongdoing. However, there is clearly enough evidence to not just warrant, but urgently require, a judicial and/or electoral inquiry to insulate Canadians from foreign interference.
One strange outcome that may result from this heinous scheme is a threat to press freedom and the ability to protect sources. Because all the possible meddling occurred through irresponsible and/or partisan media, only journalists will be able to assist Elections Canada or the RCMP with an investigation. Currently there is a contentious case that went before the Supreme Court of Canada to determine these particular limits and an outcome has not yet been determined (original / archive).
To combat foreign interference in this federal election, reporters will either have to submit to interrogation willingly, or risk losing important rights permanently if they force the issue through the justice system. Either way, press freedom is the loser and all the honest journalists in Canada will have to pay the price of their worst-behaved colleagues. Canadian voters will lose even more, if an illegitimate election transpires and it takes years to sort this out.
Make no mistake that someone has hoodwinked all Canadians and put us in a can’t-win-for-losing situation. The pillars of our democracy have just taken a beating and the road to recovery is going to be just as painful.
If readers wish to file a complaint with the commissioner, Elections Canada can be contacted by using the link provided here (intake form).
Free The Press Canada hopes for a free and fair vote, and we leave you with this audio interview to assist you in mulling it over.
It appears that everyone got played, from the Canadian media to the Liberal Party and Jody Wilson-Raybould. The SNC Lavalin affair took out some of the biggest players in the Canadian government, including the prime minister’s principal advisor, clerk of the privy council, and the attorney general. It’s a stark reminder the election is on, even before the writ drops.
I will now perform the post mortem analysis, armed with new details that were hidden from testimony to the justice committee. The reality is this scandal had less to do with SNC Lavalin than it did with Jody Wilson-Raybould’s indigenous heritage. A campaign was afoot against the former attorney general by various partisan interests to undermine her reputation and hamstring Liberals from making legal progress on the Indigenous Rights Framework promise.
The only question is – was Jody Wilson-Raybould a completely unwitting target, or did she willingly participate at any point, against the interests of her party? Hopefully this assessment will provide her with a safer space to explain certain actions than the viciously skewed battle-ring constructed by Canada’s hyper-partisan media.
Please note that sources will be linked for your inspection, including archived copies of the same pages (where possible) in case originals are deleted from the internet.
This begins with a helpful timeline that puts agendas in greater perspective, followed by sections examining key players, the relevant conflicts between them, and the potential legal consequences for Canadian press freedom.
An Illuminating Timeline
2014 – Multiple charges are laid against SNC Lavalin executives, related to the Libyan bribery scandal.
February 13, 2015 – Sami Bebawi, the former vice president of SNC Lavalin construction, is released on bail for obstruction of justice charges related to the Libyan bribery scandal. Charges were originally filed in 2014, but the accused was delayed in returning to Canada. (original + archive)
February 11, 2016 – SNC Lavalin begins lobbying the prime minister’s office (PMO), Liberal cabinet ministers, and several opposition MP’s including Andrew Scheer (Conservative leader) and Jagmeet Singh (NDP leader) for a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), after firing its bad apples from the company. (original + archive)
***Edit – After publishing, NDP candidates took to social media to deny Jagmeet Singh’s involvement. A link to the lobbying record between NDP officials and SNC Lavalin is now provided, to resolve that partisan attempt at misinformation. (original + archive) Also added is the full lobbying record of SNC Lavalin, identifying every government official from every party they met with, in an effort to secure a DPA. (original – click Monthly Communication Reports for chronological list)
July 8, 2016 – The Supreme Court of Canada rules on R v. Jordan, setting a precedent that defendants must be tried within 18 months of being criminally charged, or within 30 months if a preliminary inquiry is pursued. (original + archive)
December 12, 2017 – Justice Richard Wagner is appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. He was previously selected by former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Wagner is the son of a former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister and federal candidate for Conservative leadership. Peers describe his rulings as somewhat Conservative leaning, although he’s upheld Charter rights on significant cases favouring Liberals. (original + archive)
May, 2018 – A private member’s bill (C-262) by MP Romeo Saganash (NDP) to harmonize federal laws with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) passes the first reading, with Conservatives voting against it. (original + archive)
September, 2018 – The Liberal government implements deferred prosecution agreements (DPA’s) in the omnibus budget bill, bringing Canada up to speed with our trading partners – the United States, United Kingdom, and France – to ensure they don’t have an unfair advantage – also to protect employees and pensioners who were not involved in wrongdoing. (original + archive)
September, 2018 – While still Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould battles with the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennett, over the implementation of an Indigenous Rights Framework. The Trudeau government promised this action, but Bennett was opposed to moving quickly enough for this to happen before the next election. She also opposed the Department of Justice having control of the legal aspects, despite the attorney general’s expertise. (original + archive)
End of October, 2018 – The Privy Council Office (PCO/Wernick) requests a legal opinion from the Department of Justice regarding the potential impacts if SNC Lavalin is criminally convicted. As attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould instructed her deputy minister to withhold that report. (original + archive)
This is arguably insubordination, for refusing to provide legal advice to the PMO. The request didn’t constitute pressure to offer a DPA; instead asking what happens when one is denied. The legislation enabling a deferred prosecution agreement had only been live for one month when the prosecutor denied this option to SNC Lavalin. Also denied was advice to seek outside legal guidance on using a DPA, by the attorney general.
November 28, 2018 – Jody Wilson-Raybould texts with Gerry Butts (PMO) about the Indigenous Rights Framework, to advise she fulfilled an important part of her mandate letter from the prime minister. She advises she would publish the Attorney General Indigenous Litigation Directive the following day and she’s very happy about it. Wilson-Raybould indicates she negotiated with fellow ministers and notably, Conservative lawyers within the Department of Justice, to gain their approval. She fielded concerns from the PMO on this very day and presumably gained their support, because Butts doesn’t respond for a week and never dissents. (original + Scribd docs)
December 11, 2018 – Jody Wilson-Raybould texts with Gerry Butts (PMO) again, this time inquiring about changes the prime minister wants to the Attorney General Indigenous Litigation Directive (informal working title), what the outcome was at a cabinet meeting, and if she had approval to distribute these guidelines. She assures Butts that she made all the changes required by “Elder” (Elder Marques, senior policy advisor to the prime minister). They wouldn’t resume texting again until a month later. (original + Scribd docs)
December 19, 2018 – Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick (PCO) meets with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for lunch. Wernick testified that he attempted to contact Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould later in the day at her home, to discuss SNC Lavalin and the consequences of her decision on whether to intervene in the case. (Some phone tag ensued before the two got in touch.) (original + archive)
December 19, 2018 – Jody Wilson-Raybould meets with ex Conservative prime minister Kim Campbell at a coffee shop in Vancouver, for advice on political interference in the attorney general’s office and the latter’s experience with the David Milgaard case for comparison. (original + archive)
December 19, 2018 – Jody Wilson-Raybould calls Michael Wernick back about the SNC Lavalin matter and records the conversation without informing him. (Bear in mind there is a three hour time difference between Ontario and British Columbia.) (video analysis + full call audio + archive)
As with many journalists, lawyers, and pundits, I argue this is a breach of ethics and give reasons in a viral Twitter essay. The thread addresses cabinet confidentiality and solicitor-client privilege as different paths to arrive at the same conclusion. (original + archive)
January 8, 2019 – After a few days of phone tag, Jody Wilson-Raybould learns she’s being moved from the attorney general post and texts with Gerry Butts (PMO) about the appearance of being “pushed out”. (original + Scribd docs)
January 9 & 10, 2019 – Jody Wilson-Raybould is on vacation in Bali. She and Gerry Butts (PMO) have trouble getting in touch with one another, and she acknowledges her fate being in his hands. Butts responds that it’s okay if she wants to tune out and enjoy her vacation for the next couple days. (original + Scribd docs)
January 11, 2019 – While still on vacation, Jody Wilson-Raybould publishes the Attorney General of Canada’s Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples on the Department of Justice (DOJ) website. It’s important to read this document in its entirety, because it’s at the heart of the current controversy and what the former attorney general is trying to protect – from Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, Conservative lawyers in the DOJ, and through negotiations with cabinet, the PCO (Wernick), and PMO (Butts/Trudeau/Elder). (original + archive)
January 14, 2019 – Dr. Jane Philpott is shuffled from Minister of Indigenous Services to President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government. Jody Wilson-Raybould is shuffled from the Attorney General’s Office and Minister of Justice, to become the Minister of Veterans Affairs. (original + archive)
In response, Wilson-Raybould publishes a poignant letter addressing Indigenous issues that was subsequently deleted from the Liberal website upon ejecting her from the party. (original PDF now missing)
February 7, 2019 – The Globe and Mail publishes an exposé that claims the PMO politically interfered in the SNC Lavalin prosecution and placed undue pressure on Jody Wilson-Raybould to offer the corporation a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA). Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Principal Secretary Gerry Butts (PMO), and Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick (PCO) all denied the allegation, that was based on an anonymous source. (archive for those without a subscription)
One point of contention is the leaker cited confidential information within the Prime Minister’s Office that only staff in the PMO or PCO would be privy to.
February 12, 2019 – Jody Wilson-Raybould resigns as Minister of Veterans Affairs. A number of anonymous sources leaked to media that senior government officials, including the prime minister, tried to negotiate with Wilson-Raybould for weeks leading up to this moment. They say the former attorney general had a number of conditions, such as apologizing and firing Gerry Butts, as well as Michael Wernick – but obviously that mediation was unsuccessful.
Five conditions were reported but the leakers would only describe three, with no explanation why they withheld part of the information. This indicates again that only Cabinet, the PCO, and PMO would have been privy to these details, to be able to inform reporters. (original + archive)
February 18, 2019 – Gerald Butts (aka Gerry) resigns as Principal Advisor to the Prime Minister. His letter is distributed to the public and he cites anonymous allegations against him regarding SNC Lavalin as the reason for his departure. He says those allegations are false and reiterates his good working relationship with Jody Wilson-Raybould throughout. This positive relationship is supported by Wilson-Raybould’s similar recollections and the text messages they shared previously, in contrast to the media’s depiction as adversarial. (original + archive)
February 22, 2019 – Conservative MP Lisa Raitt, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, floats the idea that Jody Wilson-Raybould believed she was removed as the attorney general due to her position on the Indigenous reconciliation file. (original + archive)
February 27, 2019 – Jody Wilson-Raybould testifies at the justice committee. She claims to have faced undue pressure to intervene in the SNC Lavalin case and offer a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA). (original transcript + archive)
February 27, 2019 – Self-professed Liberal strategist (and lawyer) Warren Kinsella publishes a photo of his wife, Lisa Kinsella, hugging Jody Wilson-Raybould upon conclusion of her testimony. This caused a stir on social media where he also posted and it was deleted shortly after. However, the Google cache retained a copy from the original webpage. (original deleted + cache copy + archive)
February 28, 2019 – Social media and Liberal activist ‘Paddy O’Limerick’ commented about the photo Warren Kinsella posted on Twitter of his wife hugging Jody Wilson-Raybould, in connection with the SNC Lavalin scandal. (archive)
Kinsella responded by trying to obtain her personal information in a threatening way and the internet considered this a threat to dox her.
Concerned individuals reported the threat to Twitter, but the social media company declined to intervene because ‘Paddy’s’ personal information had not yet been published. They decided that threats to publicly identify a user’s name and address are within the terms of service. (original + archive)
While Twitter may condone this behaviour and driving women off the internet, I warned the parties that Pat (aka Patty, Paddy) is the wife of a police officer through my personal and professional knowledge. This is why she uses an alias, to protect the safety of her family. (original + archive)
It is unknown if doxxing is considered conduct unbecoming of a lawyer by any law society. I’m not aware of a professional complaint being filed, although additional considerations about Mr. Kinsella are addressed in a subsequent section.
March 4, 2019 – Dr. Jane Philpott resigns as Treasury Board President and Minister of Digital Government. She makes this decision in support of Jody Wilson-Raybould and claims she has lost confidence in this government, over the handling of SNC Lavalin. (original + archive)
March 6, 2019 – Former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Gerald Butts (aka Gerry), testifies at the justice committee. He doesn’t wish to quarrel with Jody Wilson-Raybould about their recollection of events, but denies putting pressure on the ex attorney general regarding SNC Lavalin. Instead he reports in their December 5, 2018 meeting that she was primarily concerned with the Indigenous rights and civil litigation directive. (original transcript + archive)
March 6, 2019 – Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick, testifies again and publishes a supplementary statement on the government website. In the last paragraph he warns the justice committee needs to investigate the Attorney General of Canada’s Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples that Jody Wilson-Raybould published on January 11, 2019, because ‘it marks a profound change in the legal landscape’. He advises it can be easily rescinded, and characterizes the question of support for Wilson-Raybould’s directive as an election wedge issue. (original + archive)
March 8, 2019 – A federal judge rejects SNC Lavalin’s application for judicial review of the prosecutor’s refusal to negotiate a DPA. The court cited the company’s failure to suggest there had been an abuse of process. (original + archive)
March 18, 2019 – Michael Wernick resigns as Clerk of the Privy Council. He cites the non-partisan duties of an impending election and that ‘there is no path to have a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the leaders of the Opposition parties’. (original + archive)
March 19, 2019 – The Trudeau Liberal government delivers the federal (election) budget, but it fails to gain much traction against the political sniping surrounding Jody Wilson-Raybould and SNC Lavalin. (original + archive)
March 19, 2019 – A photo is sent to Susan Delacourt (Liberal columnist at the Toronto Star and iPolitics) depicting Jody Wilson-Raybould, Dr. Jane Philpott, and Lisa Kinsella engaged in a post-budget chat at Chateau Laurier. Kinsella is Warren’s wife and his partner in the Daisy Group political consulting business. She was with Wilson-Raybould at the conclusion of the latter’s testimony as well. (original + archive)
March 20, 2019 – Retired judge, Brian Giesbrecht, publishes a screed against Jody Wilson-Raybould for her directive to the Department of Justice regarding Indigenous rights and how to approach civil litigation involving Section 35 matters. Giesbrecht claims that Jody Wilson-Raybould instructed federal lawyers not to appeal decisions against the government and a wide range of boogeyman allegations; but that simplistic regurgitation isn’t wholly true, nor is it a reasonable representation of the former attorney general’s guidelines. For context, Giesbrecht is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy – a known Conservative institution. He also published in Troy Media, that plainly states it is a Conservative operation. (original + archive)
March 21, 2019 – Dr. Jane Philpott gives an exclusive interview to Macleans and claims, “There’s much more to the story that needs to be told.” She encourages the government to tell Canadians the truth, but withholds what truth she’s talking about. (original + archive)
March 24, 2019 – Owner of the Daisy Group political consulting firm, Warren Kinsella, trades friendly repartée with ex Conservative prime minister Kim Campbell and brags about his nickname as the Prince of Darkness. (archive)
March 25, 2019 – An anonymous source leaks that Jody Wilson-Raybould recommended Justice Glenn Joyal for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. This information is highly confidential and she is criticized for backing a known Conservative, who took issue with Charter rights being used as a means of political activism to ‘govern from the bench’.
This source knew the former attorney general submitted a 60-page report in support of Joyal and the only people who would have known this fine detail are close colleagues in the Department of Justice, the PCO/PMO, or the ‘independent’ advisory board that was headed by former Conservative Prime Minister Kim Campbell. (original + archive)
March 25, 2019 – Chief Justice Glenn Joyal of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench slams the government leaker and Canadian media for engaging in a political smear campaign using his name. Joyal corrects the propaganda and reports that he withdrew his name from Supreme Court deliberations due to his wife’s cancer diagnosis before a decision was made. (archive for those without a subscription)
March 26, 2019 – One day later, another anonymous source peddled more detailed information about Jody Wilson-Raybould’s thought process behind nominating Justice Glenn Joyal over Justice Richard Wagner. This leaker had such exclusive access to the highest levels of government that they must have received the former attorney general’s 60-page nomination report. These details indicate a serious breach in parliamentary security. (archive for those without a subscription)
March 26, 2019 – Self-proclaimed Liberal strategist (also attorney) Warren Kinsella slams Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as blameworthy for the leak about Justice Joyal and the Supreme Court appointments process. He claims the PMO is responsible for a campaign to smear Jody Wilson-Raybould. (original + archive)
April 1, 2019 – A preliminary inquiry concludes and a judge must decide if there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial against the SNC Lavalin corporation, regarding the Libyan bribery scandal. (original + archive)
April 1, 2019 – Bill C-262 (by Romeo Saganash, NDP) to harmonize federal laws with Indigenous rights enters the second reading at the senate level. The Assembly of First Nations urges support to pass this legislation (given that Conservatives voted against it). (original + archive)
April 2, 2019 – Former Principal Secretary Gerry Butts (PMO) submits his text messages with Jody Wilson-Raybould in response to her testimony at the justice committee, and to supplement his own statement. They largely confirm both parties’ recollections that SNC Lavalin was hardly mentioned. (original + Scribd docs)
April 2, 2019 – Jody Wilson-Raybould and Dr. Jane Philpott are ejected from the Liberal Party of Canada. The former shares an impassioned plea about remaining with the party, but the prime minister reports that trust is broken with the government caucus. (original + archive)
Wilson-Raybould urges, “… rather than letting authority be the truth, let truth be the authority.”
April 3, 2019 – Jody Wilson-Raybould attends the Daughters of the Vote event on Parliament Hill. She cites supporting the young ladies, but also ex Conservative Prime Minister Kim Campbell, whom she believes is an “amazing person”. (original + archive)
April 4, 2019 – Bullets are fired at the home of Toronto city councilor, John Filion, and CBC host, Anna Maria Tremonti. The event is so recent that police don’t know if the attacker was motivated by his municipal work, or possibly her coverage of Jody Wilson-Raybould. (original + archive)
April 5, 2019 – Conrad Black publishes a screed against Jody Wilson-Raybould in the National Post. He opens by accusing the former attorney general of advancing Indigenous causes at the “expense of the Canadian national interest”. Only after attacking her racial heritage does he continue with the SNC Lavalin matter. (original + archive)
For context, Conrad Black was publisher of the National Post and that newspaper was founded by fellows from the Fraser Institute, in an effort to broadcast more Conservative voices into Canadian media. This included Ezra Levant, Jon Kay, and Conservative Member of Parliament John Williamson. (original + archive)
Black cited his motivation as a response to the Globe and Mail; a publication the disgraced Lord deemed to be a Liberal platform. But the Globe and Mail has since revealed its own Conservative bias, when editor-in-chief David Walmsly overrode the editorial board’s endorsement of a Liberal government. In a haphazard fashion, it was changed to support one of the worst-performing Conservative leaders in Canadian history and silence the paper’s journalists. (original + archive)
April 5, 2019 – Now as an independent member of parliament, Jody Wilson-Raybould provides an interview to Mercedes Stephenson at Global News. The ex attorney general makes a valid point that she was never criticized or disciplined for her job performance prior to resigning from cabinet. Even as the Globe and Mail allegations broke pertaining to SNC Lavalin, the prime minister and principal secretary supported her. It therefore stands to reason that any criticism afterwards may be classified as a smear campaign. (original + archive)
Insofar as getting a fair shake from colleagues and media goes, it doesn’t appear that Mercedes Stephenson disclosed her conflict of interest with Jody Wilson-Raybould. In 2010 the journalist participated with Gerry Butts in penning a report for the G20 that praised the effect of climate change opening the Canadian Arctic for business. It was crass and harboured racist attitudes toward the Indigenous peoples and their traditional food sources. (Scribd doc)
Liberal Women Divided Over Indigenous Affairs
If you skipped it before, it would be prudent to read Jody Wilson-Raybould’s Attorney General of Canada’s Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples now. (original + archive) It was the most important work she did at the Department of Justice and the most controversial to Conservative opponents, as well as Michael Wernick (PCO) and nail-biters in the PMO.
A full reading indicates she did not preclude government appeals against Indigenous claims, as the retired Conservative judge exclaimed. In fact, she walked an incredibly careful path to fulfill her mandate from the prime minister without hamstringing government lawyers from addressing Section 35 matters and civil litigation. Jody Wilson-Raybould did what she was instructed to accomplish. This despite opposition from Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, and misogynist whisper campaigns that she was “difficult”.
Dr. Bennett carries herself like the white saviour of Indigenous peoples and it’s plain to see she resented any lived and legal experience from Jody Wilson-Raybould. Michael Wernick (PCO) went so far as to defend Dr. Bennett’s honour in his justice committee testimony and the policy spat he revealed between the women was widely covered by the media. It’s just unfortunate the narrative was spun to impugn the former attorney general as the party who was being “difficult”. That’s an entirely different ilk of putting pressure on Wilson-Raybould, to see her name destroyed if she didn’t come to another minister’s heel. (original + archive)
Moreover, Dr. Bennett came to Michael Wernick’s defence when he was appointed by Trudeau as Clerk of the Privy Council. Previously Wernick was the Deputy Minister of Indian (sic) Affairs under the leadership of former Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper. These were cruel years to First Nations and he was part of the campaign that implemented spying and disruption tactics against Indigenous advocates. (original + archive)
Cindy Blackstock is only one example and she was tormented for filing a human rights claim as executive director of the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society. The Assembly of First Nations supported Blackstock and she eventually won in a ruling that blasted the federal government for discriminating against Indigenous children by underfunding child welfare agencies on reserves.
Wernick was tasked with an investigation into the spying allegations and he fudged a report to absolve the Conservative administration of any wrongdoing whatsoever. He was later refuted by the privacy commissioner who independently investigated and confirmed the anti-Indigenous spy campaign was in fact true. (original + archive)
In Wernick’s testimony to the justice committee, he acknowledged a policy stand-off between Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett and Minister of Justice/Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould. But Wernick never describes the policy they disagreed about and the only one it wouldn’t be is SNC Lavalin.
Dr. Philpott was the Minister of Indigenous Services and had to work with Dr. Bennett on the most regular basis out of all the cabinet ministers. Their jobs were related to serve the Indigenous population and both these women are physicians. But Dr. Philpott took a principled stand and supported Jody Wilson-Raybould, as an Indigenous attorney general, over Dr. Bennett and every other person in Cabinet.
Philpott repeatedly warns there is more to this story and she compels Cabinet to be honest with the Canadian people. She accuses the prime minister and his closest advisors of ‘shutting down the story’, but never reveals what part of the story she feels is being silenced.
Likewise, Jody Wilson-Raybould won’t disclose two of her conditions for staying with the party, before her unceremonious ejection occurred. The high-ranking government leakers who peddled that story to multiple news agencies won’t discuss those two conditions either.
Despite Gerry Butts tabling his text messages with Jody Wilson-Raybould, her Attorney General of Canada’s Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples is the one thing that can’t be mentioned – even though it was part of their recurring discussions and part of the justice committee evidence.
But key Conservatives are squawking about it and Micheal Wernick tried to make this directive an election issue. In some circles it’s been suggested that Jody Wilson-Raybould owed a deferred prosecution agreement to SNC Lavalin, to equalize the favoured treatment she’s been accused of giving to First Nations.
In a text conversation with the prime minister’s principal advisor, Wilson-Raybould further discusses the approval she needed from Conservative lawyers within the Department of Justice. The DOJ is supposed to be non-partisan, yet two of the highest-ranking officials in the country acknowledged needing that partisan buy-in to be able to proceed with the Indigenous directive. No one is questioning the tyranny of an attorney general needing to pacify the Opposition within the public service.
Jody Wilson-Raybould may have committed an ethical breach when she recorded Michael Wernick without informing him. It appears she may have been insubordinate when she instructed her deputy minister to withhold the legal opinion on SNC Lavalin from the Privy Council. This requires discipline.
If we were to view this situation through a tort law lens, it could be compared to a drunk driving accident. The drunk driver causes the accident, but the victim with injuries wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. In cases like these the victim is still entitled to damages, but they lose 25 percent of the settlement due to their part in the negligence for failing to wear a seatbelt. In Canadian law our judgment doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing.
It’s apparent there were extenuating circumstances for Jody Wilson-Raybould and a multi-faceted political campaign to deeply undermine her. It doesn’t seem even-handed to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples along with it. The former attorney general’s Indigenous directive is at stake and this is a decisive moment in Canadian history. Whether Cabinet and mainstream media want to discuss this or not, the repercussions of excluding Wilson-Raybould for writing that directive will reverberate for decades. This also comes after the Conservative experiment with attempting to manipulate Senator Patrick Brazeau.
Dr. Philpott and Ms. Wilson-Raybould were willing to sit as back benchers and still contribute the wealth of their experience to representing constituents. Extraordinary investments were made in their professional development and it’s being wasted so a timid government can keep secrets about Indigenous issues as we head into an election. The Conservatives and NDP must not have wanted to be pigeonholed on reconciliation either, because it was their duty to know this and they chose to ignore or remain silent.
The truth of the matter with SNC Lavalin is that two executives were exonerated when everyone wasn’t looking. Lengthy court delays intervened to make this a non-issue; and the Jordan ruling may yet prevail to dismiss the case against the corporation. If SNC Lavalin is forced to trial, they could still plead political interference based on the government leakers and partisan media spectacle over the past two months, non-stop. This isn’t a justifiable reason to discourage women in politics, or sever communication with Indigenous partners.
On Warren Kinsella’s Inner Battle With Liberals
I’m well aware that Mr. Kinsella threatens lawsuits against his detractors liberally. We tangoed once before when his wife was an executive at ORNGE (the Ontario air ambulance) and that company was spectacularly scandalized. This section will begin by taking that elephant out of the room and thanking Kathleen Wynne for SLAPP legislation that was long overdue in Ontario. If Kinsella engages in silencing tactics anyway, perhaps the Ottawa bubble will pitch in for a Kickstarter campaign to fund a proper defence of press freedom. Preaching for Jody Wilson-Raybould to be allowed to speak her truth doesn’t mesh with censoring the analysts who know a thing or two about it.
It’s become necessary to address the Kinsellas because they’re ingratiating themselves to Jody Wilson-Raybould and implanting their influence in the SNC Lavalin matter. The former attorney general wouldn’t be familiar with the company she’s been keeping, or their conflict of interest with Indigenous issues that are being muffled by all the players.
Warren Kinsella projects himself as a Liberal strategist, and indeed he was integral to the Ontario McGuinty government. (archive) He was also a staffer to Jean Chrétien, who was eventually undone by Paul Martin in a Liberal family coup. McGuinty was turfed as one of the most shady administrations and these rifts within the party have never quite healed. (archive) You can gauge that damage through the behaviour of Sheila Copps, lately on social media.
Gerry Butts is the best friend of current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but he was McGuinty’s principal secretary before assuming the same role with Trudeau. (archive) Both Kinsella and Butts were instrumental to the Liberal administration when the ORNGE bribery/kickback scheme was transpiring.
The maiden name of Warren’s wife is Lisa Kirbie. She was one of the most central figures to the ORNGE scandal, as the director of government relations. She handled the paperwork for ORNGE, to-and-from government, that was pivotal to the police investigation. (original + archive)
Uncovering the problems at ORNGE occurred because an issue of public safety arose for patients they were transporting. It ballooned into an alleged $4.7 million boondoggle and Kirbie was fired from the company in the course of the fallout. She was offered a severance package, but sued for more on the basis of damages for sexual harassment allegations that were filed after being terminated. (original + archive)
Before leaving the company, Kirbie secretly recorded executives in her effort to substantiate the allegations, that included holding Alfred Apps responsible for the ORNGE scandal as the “mastermind”. Apps was a lawyer for ORNGE and president of the Liberal Party of Canada. He adamantly denied Kirbie’s accusations, but was turfed as party president due to the bad press. (original + archive)
Not only did Apps leave his post at the helm of the Liberal Party, but he also resigned from Fasken Martineau. The law firm continued to represent ORNGE and Apps departed to practice with his brother. He says that departure had nothing to do with the ORNGE file. Nor has he ever been charged with an offence. (original + archive)
As a sidebar, Fasken Martineau is now representing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, to defend against libel allegations levied by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regarding the SNC Lavalin dispute. (original + archive)
Kirbie was dating Kinsella at the time of the ORNGE scandal and they married a short while later. It’s unknown what came of her wrongful dismissal suit, but her secret recordings never resulted in criminal repercussions for the company. Only the key colleagues she worked with were terminated or resigned in kind. Their reputations were also destroyed. (original + archive)
Continuing, Warren Kinsella is one of the grandfathers of negative attack ads in Canadian politics and he is proud to defend that strategy. (archive) He is a practising lawyer in Ontario, subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct. (original) He’s the owner/operator of The Daisy Group, a political and public relations consulting firm. (archive) He’s also a Sun Media columnist, who once skirted a libel suit brought by a diplomat based on a technicality. (original + archive)
Kinsella defended Ezra Levant’s Sun News Network when the channel was closed, as a matter of press freedom that ignored the bigotry and racism it promoted. It was a sister to the Sun newspaper where Kinsella publishes and he frequently appeared on their political television programs. (archive)
Sun Media was owned by Québecor until 2015. (archive) And former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney remains Chairman of the Board at Québecor. (original + archive) Pierre Karl Péladeau is the CEO of Québecor and past CEO of Sun Media, as well as being the former Leader of the Parti Québécois. He’s best known for his political stance as a Québec separatist and ran for the PQ in a riding that is a stone’s throw from Justin Trudeau’s Liberal constituency. (archive) These are, or have been, the employers of Warren Kinsella.
On the political front, and despite Kinsella’s professed Liberal identity, he worked the John Tory municipal campaign and counts Nick Kouvalis as a best friend. (archive) John Tory is the former leader of Ontario Progressive Conservatives and in that time he ran against Dalton McGuinty for premier. (archive) Nick Kouvalis ran Kellie Leitch’s campaign for leadership of the federal Conservatives, that was widely denounced for racism, Islamophobia, and the pursuit of a snitch line. (archive) He also has a criminal record for drunk driving and an incident related to a different Conservative campaign. (archive) The beef between Canadian media and Kouvalis is that he embraced and defended the spread of fake news, as a source that gleefully libelled Justin Trudeau. (archive)
On April 1, 2019 Kinsella and Kouvalis collaborated again, for the purpose of a Sun News article that was a takedown of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Kinsella promoted Kouvalis as a trustworthy authority, and among their comments was a nod to #Gropegate (wherein Trudeau was accused of inappropriately touching a reporter). They further noted that PMJT can only win the impending election if he picks up more votes in Québec. Coincidentally, that’s where SNC Lavalin is located. (archive)
But in that article Kinsella forgot to disclose that he was the source of #Gropegate. He forgot to disclose that he advised one of Kent Hehr’s accusers, while also writing extensively about that #MeToo scandal that resulted in Hehr’s removal from the federal Liberal Cabinet. (archive)
Although Warren Kinsella vows he is a Liberal strategist, he has a history of batting for more than one team and sniping out more high profile Liberals than the Opposition could dream of. He was ejected from the Olivia Chow mayoral campaign and the feeling was apparently mutual. (archive) He’s attempting to assist the Conservative’s Andrew Scheer in the current election against Trudeau. (archive) In the Hill Times he’s attempting to assist the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh. (archive) All the while Kinsella claims to be close enough to the PMO to know that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney is the (Conservative) leader that Trudeau speaks with most frequently. (archive)
He even harbours ill feelings toward former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin and former Liberal Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. For the record, it was Martin who recruited Jody Wilson-Raybould on behalf of Justin Trudeau. (archive)
Kinsella has an interesting take on what constitutes a conflict of interest, but none could be more concerning than his precarious situation and attitude toward Indigenous matters.
In celebrating the Daisy Group’s 10-year anniversary, Kinsella boasted about some of his clients. They include: all levels of the Liberal Party, bar associations, law firms, the Department of Justice (where Jody Wilson-Raybould used to work), Indian (sic) Affairs (where Michael Wernick used to work), and a couple of First Nations. (archive)
Warren Kinsella fathered a child from the Carcross Tagish First Nation. He’s deleted most entries that cited his daughter, but kept one published that notes the reserve’s recent support for Jody Wilson-Raybould. (archive)
Other entries on Kinsella’s personal website that reference his Indigenous daughter are deleted from 2012, during Stephen Harper’s tenure. The following titles are no longer available:
Aug 2012 – In Carcross Tagish Territory Tonight
Sept 2012 – CTFN: This Is My Daughter’s First Nation
More recently he deleted an entry about his wife’s involvement with Jody Wilson-Raybould, surrounding her justice committee testimony. Now missing from the site is this title:
It should be noted that Lisa Kinsella joined the Daisy Group as a managing partner after leaving ORNGE. She’s originally from British Columbia, where Jody Wilson-Raybould calls home.
So Warren Kinsella and the Daisy Group have professionally represented First Nations, including the one where his daughter resides. (archive) But he also claims to have been an advisor to former prime ministers Chrétien, Martin, and Harper on Indigenous issues and doesn’t see it as a conflict of interest. Representing the government’s Indian (sic) Affairs didn’t ring any warning bells either. (archive)
To read the tone of Kinsella’s sentiments toward Indigenous peoples is confusing at best. He sympathizes with their suffering, yet also claims that Indigenous leaders bear much responsibility for the ongoing crises. He wields accusations that have been decried as racist, such as blaming elders for misappropriating their government reparations. For example, Kinsella took a hard line against Attawapiskat and Chief Theresa Spence. (archive)
He further describes his position at the Daisy Group as a government and public relations consultant who is “living in spin” and an “apprentice of the dark arts”. (archive)
On the serious side however, the Carcross Tagish First Nation is where the Klondike Gold Rush began. It was also one of the first Indigenous reserves converted to a fee simple municipality, as the Harper Conservatives formed government. The negotiations transpired under Paul Martin’s Liberals and came into effect in 2006. The agreement extinguished Indigenous rights in many regards and opened their land for mining, akin to SNC Lavalin interests. It also brought them into the Canadian taxation schedule. (original government link + downloadable PDF, 583 pages)
Warren Kinsella failed to see the irony when his daughter’s First Nation, the one that he represented, gave him a carving of a shark turning into a man. (archive)
Within six years of signing onto the fee simple municipality structure, the Carcross Tagish First Nation was fighting to change the agreement. A number of clauses in the settlement with government prevent that from happening, however. (original + archive)
The client list at Daisy Group is full of potential conflicts, between groups and governments, First Nations and governments, as well as various businesses and governments. Unfortunately Warren Kinsella’s policy to deal with these conflicts is not as prominently featured. (archive)
What Kinsella did to silence his detractors is possibly just as alarming. He sued Twitter because the social media giant didn’t remove a post that was critical of his adventures. Instead of going after the commentator for libel and proving the allegation, he forced Twitter to settle with him or face the prospect of setting a legal precedent that would undoubtedly affect its investors. Twitter settled with Kinsella for $200,000. (original + archive)
And then, somehow, Twitter became a Daisy Group client. (archive)
Only Jody Wilson-Raybould knows if the Kinsellas disclosed these details to her. Only she can tell us if she was aware that the attorney general’s Indigenous directive conflicts with the fee simple approach. Regardless of her knowledge though, SNC Lavalin has an interest in the way this plays out.
Potential Legal Consequences For Canada & Canadian Journalism
A number of leaks have now occurred from the highest levels of the Canadian government. Whether it’s about the policy on deferred prosecution agreements, deliberations for a Supreme Court judge, the Khadr settlement (archive), or Jody Wilson-Raybould’s conditions to Cabinet, only the PMO, PCO, or Department of Justice could be responsible for them. A campaign to remove the attorney general couldn’t be more clear and two of the people who aren’t behind this are Wilson-Raybould and Trudeau.
But as a country we are nonetheless facing a severe security breach. It must be investigated to resolve the integrity of the federal government and the sanctity of operations – especially with an election approaching. That would mean trying to obtain records from journalists that are supposed to be protected, to determine the identity of leakers.
Recently Vice News was responsible for setting a precedent that already stripped away journalists’ ability to protect sources, unless they are anonymous. As expected, the Canadian media resorted to using only anonymous sources after that decision. But now we have a national security risk that can only be mitigated by chipping away at what was left of press freedom and the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada may become responsible for managing that outcome. (original + archive)
It is with great regret that I bring this to everyone’s attention. The reason I’ve done this is to spark a genuine, adult conversation about the consequential issues that are going on behind the superficial headlines. So long as we continue to believe the problem is over a DPA with SNC Lavalin, we will continue to fail at addressing these substantive threats to the Canadian – Indigenous relationship.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his lifelong friend, Gerald Butts, enjoy seeking sage advice in historical and contemporary literature. On that note this dispatch will close with a few words of that nature.
“The willingness to change one’s mind in the light of new evidence is the sign of rationality, not weakness.” Stuart Sutherland
(Full disclosure: When I took time off from journalism, I was the director of a federal Liberal riding association – the one that had to contend with Conservative Kellie Leitch. I have never participated in politics while reporting on them and my ethical values on managing conflicts of interest are set in stone. I guest lecture on matters of ethics and the partisan effect on press freedom, and I’ve been an advisor to the Inter American Press Association. I even managed to score myself a spot on Stephen Harper’s so-called ‘Enemy List’. I believe journalists have a fundamental right to vote and be knowledgeable about the issues, but that we cannot wear two hats at the same time and exploit our personal experiences for professional gain.)
In a stunning twist to the Jian Ghomeshi scandal, new details emerge from the reporter who broke this story that cast doubt on the professional integrity of his investigation. On or about December 11, 2014 and after charges were laid against Ghomeshi, Jesse Brown provided a friendly interview to Ed The Sock that raises considerable issues (clip appears below).
Ed The Sock is a provocative puppet personality and a former fixture at CityTV. The character was played by Steven Kerzner who no longer stars on MuchMusic, but he maintains an obscure podcast to keep in touch with nostalgic fans. Kerzner previously ran for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario before supporting the NDP, as well.
With fewer than 1,200 listeners, Brown admitted numerous details he withheld from the Ghomeshi exposé, that was eventually published in conjunction with the Toronto Star. A hearty dose of laughter accompanies this discussion about Brown’s “recriminations”, that may precipitate a need to examine his involvement.
Personal & Professional Conflicts at CBC
Jesse Brown begins by confessing he is a personal friend to Kathryn Borel, the former CBC producer who alleges Ghomeshi threatened to “hate f–k” her during a business meeting at Q. It is unknown whether Brown failed to disclose his personal conflicts, or if the Toronto Star agreed to withhold the information in light of Ms. Borel’s intention to remain anonymous at the onset. Neither Brown nor the Toronto Star would respond to questions about this matter.
Not only were Brown and Borel friends, but they were also coworkers. Jesse Brown failed to disclose his relationship with CBC as a radio host, in competition with Ghomeshi, at the very time Borel confided in him about the alleged harassment. The three were CBC colleagues and Brown now admits he was the employee who didn’t come forward to report the abuse. He goes on to suggest that all men need to have this conversation, about why they remain silent as he did and what is required of men to protect women in modern times.
From Brown’s perspective and due to the shrinking pool of available jobs in journalism, he felt that reporting Ghomeshi would result in losing his position for rocking the boat and forcing CBC to confront its workplace issues. No events were mentioned to cause this apprehension, but Brown freely admits his own ambition was a factor in staying quiet, as the only person who also confesses to knowing about Borel’s predicament. Every insult and allegation leveled against Q staff and CBC producers was ultimately directed inward.
CBC Complaint & The Missing Witness
The other part of Brown’s explanation for remaining silent raises issues for the internal investigation. CBC hired an outside lawyer to determine what went wrong, because Borel claims to have submitted a complaint that was ignored by the union and broadcaster.
However, the Canadian Media Guild denied receiving a complaint that included sexual harassment allegations and CBC is under fire for failing to discover corresponding records that identify her claim. In the audio clip, Jesse Brown mentions that Borel never made a complaint and he was sworn to secrecy because she didn’t wish to come forward. He says it wasn’t his place to betray Borel’s wishes and he supported his friend by instructing her to keep notes, at least.
Brown adds there was a witness to the former producer’s allegation; but none was mentioned in the Toronto Star report, witnesses were excluded from the Ghomeshi narrative and Brown is continuing to withhold that name. Without it, neither the CBC nor the police and Ghomeshi’s lawyers can investigate.
Kathryn Borel also approached foreign press at The Guardian to finish telling her story, instead of sharing with the immediately concerned Canadian media. In her editorial, Borel adds new sexual assault allegations that accuse Ghomeshi of massaging her upper body and thrusting his private area into her backside (clothed). She claims there was a witness to this event in support of Brown’s recent interview, but doesn’t disclose that name either.
The Toronto Star and Jesse Brown declined to comment about their knowledge of Borel’s newly published allegations. It’s unknown if Borel withheld this information in her anonymous account, or if the investigating reporters withheld these details since the beginning. The more fulsome description that was published in another country isn’t aided by Brown’s confession that he “amended details” about all the women’s stories, due to his self perceived “license” to direct, craft and alter their reports.
This is also the first time a friendship between Kathryn Borel and Jesse Brown was disclosed, by the complainant and not the journalist. Furthermore, Brown admits he was the one to solicit Borel’s allegation for the news. He explains sharing her story with the other women and offering to seek his friend’s support to bolster their claims.
Based on Jesse Brown’s confession, there appears to be a conflict of interest to protect his old job while selectively blaming former colleagues and censoring the bulk of details that include his direct involvement. Ethics forbid this behaviour and the failure to disclose, but Brown admits he is new to investigative journalism and believes that online reporting is allowed to play by ‘different rules’ than the mainstream is required to uphold. These rules are understood by journalists as libel law and issues that concern truth in reporting, vetting and verification.
Were The Women Using Jesse?
In this interview with Ed The Sock, Jesse Brown elaborates on the other female complainants. He describes the initial email from the first woman and says it led to consecutive interviews with the others. Brown nor the Toronto Star would comment if the first complainant coordinated the others, or if these women approached Brown independently.
But he did accuse the females of “using him”. When Ed The Sock realized the inappropriate nature of this comment, he guided Brown to describe the event as washing each other’s hands, as opposed to being used. Brown responds by agreeing and admits his professional position was compromised, that he crossed into “sticky territory” as a supportive and friendly therapist. There were questions if the women were “pissed off”, that Brown used their friendship to obtain a story – one they didn’t wish to be told. He describes a process of having to remind the complainants about his status as a reporter, when they shared details about their relationships with Ghomeshi.
To achieve the females’ consent, Brown admits he amended details and yet there were still “certain places they didn’t want him to go”. He admits altering more than their names and “all sorts of stuff” was withheld. This suppression occurred in concert with censorship that Brown demanded, because to him this wasn’t about a sex scandal. In his license and authority to reconstruct the narrative, he admits fighting with the Toronto Star to bury and exclude information that would shift from his focus on violence and CBC as a sick institution.
Regarding acts of sexual violence, Jesse Brown reports the women questioning their memories and if they could trust their recollections. According to the interview, he describes having to “push and pull” the complainants to obtain their information and admits “media proofing” them prior to the Toronto Star‘s publication.
Strombo Equated With Ghomeshi, Levant On A Pedestal
Expanding on Brown’s view about the real problem surrounding Jian Ghomeshi, he blames the CBC for creating stars when they’ve done nothing to earn that prestige. To him, this wasn’t about the criminal charges and rather the success of talent that he doesn’t deem worthy. Brown goes on to discuss his greater performance and believes he lost his position at CBC because they’re not looking for skilled staff of his caliber.
For some time Brown rants about the employment of George Stroumboulopoulus and claims the same case can be made against him as Ghomeshi. It’s not that Brown is alleging sexual misconduct, but this drives the point home that his concerns about Ghomeshi didn’t focus on the women or the alleged assaults. To him, this was strictly about the future of CBC, his own access to employment and ratings.
It’s Ed The Sock who feels compelled to defend George Strombo and he appears surprised by Brown’s attack. The clash occurs again when Brown slurs “they could never wash the CityTV off” and then accuses CBC of poaching unmerited celebrity from competitors like MuchMusic and bands like the one Ghomeshi starred in.
To provide context, Jesse Brown lavishes Ezra Levant with admiration for his exceptional talent at pushing everyone’s buttons. Two weeks before this commentary, Levant lost an $80,000 lawsuit that was filed against him for defamation. The judge cited his “reckless disregard for the truth”, but this had no effect on Brown’s perception of successful news personalities, versus the substandard celebrity he attributes to the CBC and the vast majority of Canadian entertainment.
Politics & Jeffrey Dvorkin
In another interview with J-Source that slightly pre-dates the Ghomeshi story, Brown describes himself as a bitter and disgruntled, ex-employee of the CBC. He says Canadaland was losing money and the show’s more generous sponsorship had come to an end. At the midpoint of a Ghomeshi investigation, Brown told The Walrus he was struggling so badly that filmmakers and comedy writers were being added to cover the gap in entertainment. He felt the podcast had become poisonous to his connections and career.
These commentaries span a few months and mere weeks before the Ghomeshi story broke, he lamented about a need for stable funding to continue. Brown attributes some optimism to daily encouragement he received from other journalists, specifically naming Jeffrey Dvorkin.
Dvorkin hails from Calgary, Alberta and now serves as the Director of Journalism at the University of Toronto. Before that, he held positions in Canada at CBC Radio and on the stateside at NPR. In 2010, he accepted an assignment from the U.S. Department of State, to lecture Niger and Guinea on the role of press in elections. This was followed by a similar mission to teach Turkish reporters about their powers in 2011, despite the widespread incarceration of journalists and a government-media scandal that ensued.
Dvorkin is also a major force behind the push to remove CBC from television airwaves, converting solely to internet production and the often debated Canadian Netflix. He was making this case at the same time Jesse Brown began the Ghomeshi investigation.
Before any news about the sexual allegations surfaced, Dvorkin appeared on Canadaland to encourage support for the dismantling and reconstruction of CBC. During this interview with Jesse Brown, Dvorkin scoffs at senior CBC staff for suggesting that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals would restore funding to cure their ills. He closes by citing cuts from Liberal governments as the reason he left CBC for greener pastures in the United States.
This viewpoint appears to influence Jesse Brown’s position, as heard in the audio clip with Ed The Sock. At length, he parrots the same talking points and goes on to assert the CRTC should plan for obsolescence too. This rant is peppered with much criticism for Canadian talent and programming, with a dig at ACTRA forming part of the exchange.
It should be noted that Lucy DeCoutere, one of the Ghomeshi complainants, is also one of these Canadian actors that Brown carelessly disparages with gusto, in addition to his description of feeling used.
Friends & Eyes Wide Shut
Less known is Brown’s entry into the lucrative tech business, as the co-creator of Bitstrips. This app was once popular on social media and allows users to express their lives in cartoon caricature versions of themselves. It’s still popular in the school system and the company received a $3 million investment, but articles about Bitstrips fail to mention Brown and he’s the only source to assert this relationship. He declined to answer questions from FreeThePressCanada about this issue.
In his other pursuits, Brown’s investigation of Ghomeshi benefited from an allegation that arose from Professor Jeremy Copeland. The Toronto Star published that Copeland shunned his students from pursuing internships at Q due to inappropriate behaviour, but Western University denied this was possible and so did the student newspaper. Other journalism programs then came forward to deny issues or complaints about Ghomeshi at their facilities. The matter was never questioned or readdressed by the press.
Cautiously and coincidentally, Jeremy Copeland worked with the U.S. government to fill a similar role as Jeffrey Dvorkin. The former was the American spokesperson for out-of-country voting in Iraq and he trained Iraqi journalists how to cover their election after the war that responded to 9/11 attacks. The same as Turkey, this country descended into chaos and lost the battle for message control. Both are now mired by ISIS and political-media issues, along with the greatest threat to the survival of journalists.
Jesse Brown describes this cast of personalities as the media version of Eyes Wide Shut in his discussion with Ed The Sock. He claims the community is Toronto-centric and he singles out neighbourhoods from Beaches and the Annex, as those who know and contribute to the decline by playing along. Brown believes they’re all friends or married to one another and he admits being part of this dysfunctional but influential posse, that determines the narrative for Canadian views.
Brown describes the group as inbred and David Akin reminds everyone that Sun TV was pursuing a ‘hotbed’ of sexual harassment suspicions at CBC since the year before. He used the Ghomeshi scandal to suggest that CBC mislead parliament when it responded to accusations in the last round. In that example, the broadcaster was accused of processing 1,454 sexual harassment complaints in Toronto and Ottawa alone (proven untrue, see link for details). Regardless, Ezra Levant from Sun TV appeared on Canadaland a few days ago.
Cash Flow Returns, But Politics Remain
In Jesse Brown’s history with the CBC, he once faced a dispute about the right to republish work from The Contrarian on his own website. The broadcaster has a policy to archive online materials after a period of 2 years, thereby causing the content to become inaccessible. As Brown attempted to save his creative input from the compression pile, he received a takedown notice from CBC management and today these shows are nowhere to be found on the internet. When the same issue arose regarding Jian Ghomeshi and the public’s sensitivity toward archiving programs from Q, Brown was at the forefront pushing for this content to be relegated in the same manner.
After the Ghomeshi story broke, the Globe and Mail reported Brown’s income had risen to more than $9,000 per month. The Columbia Journalism Review went one step further and tracked these increases on a monthly basis since October – the same month Brown’s crowdfunding campaign went live and the Ghomeshi allegations were published.
One month after that major headline, Ed The Sock was a guest on Jesse Brown’s Canadaland in a role reversal. During this interview, Steven Kerzner (aka Ed), is asked about sexual misconduct allegations involving Moses Znaimer at CityTV. Odd behaviour is discussed, but Kerzner declines to contribute to any rumour mills.
When Brown visits Kerzner less than two weeks later, they discuss Jesse’s pitch to all the major publishers for an earlier version of his media criticism program. Brown reports he was prepared to be ‘more responsible and sober’ and ‘not a satirical’. These blanket denials to provide him with a venue resulted in the establishment of Canadaland, described in the audio clip as kicking people in the shins, in lieu.
When the income generated by Brown’s podcast hit the $10,000 per month benchmark, he intended to hire staff. Brown declined to answer questions about his income, but Sean D. B. Craig was employed to break the Amanda Lang story on behalf of Canadaland more recently. Craig is unknown as a journalist and no bio can be found online. Originally he promoted himself as a CBC producer on social media, but later apologized for the humorous misrepresentation, due to the commotion and confusion it caused. Brown then introduced his new hire as a “pinko comrade”. The term pinko is commonly directed toward supporters of the NDP, both fondly and as a slur.
Jesse Brown, CBC, the Toronto Star and lawyers for Jian Ghomeshi were contacted.
The CBC was approached with this audio clip and a proposal to run the story. Director of Government Relations, Shaun Poulter, was exceptionally helpful to facilitate contact with others at the broadcaster. The Head of Media Relations, Chuck Thompson, also took a concerned interest to facilitate discussion. The latter agreed this information should be forwarded to the external investigator, but a decision to print the story would need to come from the news department directly.
Thompson involved the senior producer of CBC News, Ian Kalushner. After three days of debating the story without hearing the file, he declined any proposition to provide coverage. Mr. Thompson was then re-approached and encouraged to review the clip before another publication was canvassed, in lieu of the broadcaster’s response.
At this time Thompson attended the news department to discuss the clip with Kalushner. A compromise was reached and the reporter regularly assigned to the Ghomeshi file was asked to evaluate the evidence, as the most knowledgeable person about these developments on staff. CBC News expressed hesitation to publish freelance work, despite the fact that FreeThePressCanada had a history of reporting politics for the broadcaster in years past.
After another five day lapse, CBC journalist Ioanna Roumeliotis accepted the file for review. Both she and producer Ian Kalushner responded,
“You would be accurate to describe my assessment of the audio clip as material that is not newsworthy.”
Chuck Thompson responded,
“… I don’t make editorial decisions for CBC News and I know you have been in touch with them. It’s their call as to whether or not they want to go further with what you have discussed.”
Jesse Brown was notified about the impending article and presented with 42 questions for comment. He declined to provide answers and politely rebutted,
“The story of my investigation of Jian Ghomeshi is an important one that I will tell the public in detail.
It will take a lot of work and care. Here’s what I need to be mindful of:
Protecting my sources’ identities. Presenting a full account may expose them, so I need to go over everything very carefully, consulting with them where possible to remove identifying details.
Legal concerns. The professional and personal behaviour of many people will be discussed, so this story needs to get lawyered.
Accuracy. This is a complicated story, key aspects of which unfolded rapidly. I need to go over hundreds of notes and emails and dozens of public documents. Since I see no immediate urgency in reporting this story as soon as possible (I’m not finished with the investigation of Jian itself yet!) I’m going to take my time and tell it as precisely and as well as possible.
Finally, I am in the news business, so of course my intention is to save all this stuff for my own report.”
The Toronto Star was provided with a similar opportunity to comment and 25 related questions. Multiple attempts were made to contact investigative journalist, Kevin Donovan, and the newspaper’s editor, Michael Cooke. Both were informed they are the only source that refuses to respond, beyond Mr. Donovan’s messages to inquire about the nature of these questions on social media.
That silence was broken by an unrelated Toronto Star columnist, Jack Lakey, who proceeded to insult and intimidate FreeThePressCanada for approaching his colleagues to send the email inquiry.
Henein Hutchinson LLP accepted the audio clip quite recently. The law firm representing Jian Ghomeshi hasn’t received a reasonable amount of time to examine and comment. If a statement is forthcoming, this article will be edited to include that response.
The Clip: Jesse Brown & Ed The Sock
Please be advised this audio contains profanity and racial, religious jokes that some may find offensive. Originally published by Ed The Sock’s Soundcloud account, December 11, 2014. This is re-posted for news reporting and fair comment purposes (original source).
Also, this investigation isn’t meant to detract from the seriousness of allegations against Jian Ghomeshi, a police investigation, or the equitable court process. It is not meant to discourage victims from seeking justice, through professional, compassionate and capable members of law enforcement. This investigation only reflects the techniques of a journalist and ethical reporting. No inference or suggestion about the female complainants or Jian Ghomeshi is made by FreeThePressCanada.
A photo of Canada’s Attorney General and Justice Minister, Peter MacKay, recently went viral on social media. The government’s top legal bureaucrat was seen posing with Canada’s National Firearms Association, sporting a t-shirt in support of the group’s endeavours. The graphic on this gifted apparel melded the country’s maple leaf symbol with a rifle, and everyone in the shot was smiling. Going by the acronym “NFA”, it is the northern counterpart to America’s NRA, that holds considerable influence over gun control laws on the stateside.
The NFA was identified by mainstream news as a social force behind repeal of the Long Gun Registry. The Quebec government was also mentioned for a temporary injunction to halt that repeal, with its case to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. Despite this acknowledgement, the most important information that raises questions about of conflict of interest appears to be overlooked or censored.
On Docket 35448, Attorney General of Quebec v. Attorney General of Canada, et al, the NFA is listed as a party to the proceeding, that will argue constitutional matters in relation to gun control. Quebec wishes to keep a registry and the federal government is strongly opposed, with the NFA in its corner.
On June 5, 2014, Canada’s National Firearms Association received Intervener status from the Supreme Court. It came with instructions to pay the Attorney Generals (Canada and/or Quebec) any monies required to cover the cost of additional disbursements that may arise from the gun lobby’s participation in the hearing. The NFA is forbidden from introducing new evidence, or supplementing the appellant and respondents’ records.
On July 31, 2014, the NFA filed its documents including a Factum and Book of Authorities. On August 14, 2014, MacKay’s office did the same and the following day the case to suspend Quebec’s gun registry was set to proceed with appeal. It was less than two weeks later that the infamous picture was discovered, indicating a personal-political relationship between NFA members and Canada’s Attorney General.
Given the longstanding ruckus between Peter MacKay, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Supreme Court of Canada, the public has little patience for the appearance of impropriety. Going forward it will be important to learn if or what gifts might have changed hands between these judicial parties, and the appropriateness of campaigning for one another while legally opposing a provincial government.
More to the unsavoury appearance, the Twitterverse discovered additional photos of NFA members who posed with the Attorney General. On veteran Kurtis Gaucher’s Facebook page, he’s found casually bragging about 4 ounces of marijuana. Perhaps Gaucher has a medical prescription, but in light of MacKay’s vehement stance against the substance, it sparked renewed publicity across social media.
On Ericka Clarke’s Facebook account, a photo of the woman holding a significant weapon was discovered. Her social media has since been closed to public access and the option to contact was removed. Before this occurred, a Twitter member took the liberty of pointing out the irony with a Buddies, Bullets & Bongs meme that is quickly gaining traction.
In the meantime this relationship is clouding another Supreme Court case regarding constitutional rights within the provinces. The Attorney General of Canada appears to support ‘gun toting drug slingers’ over public safety, according to the consensus of popular social media. With a little less tongue-in-cheek, the Supreme Court may need to ask if the fees it assessed were paid to the government in promotional t-shirts, however.
Note from the author: Originally this report was set to explore the federal government’s hand in the anti abortion lobby. Surprisingly it grew to include an anti gay lobby, anti aboriginal lobby, anti prostitution lobby, anti human rights lobby, anti green energy lobby, anti tax lobby, among other issues.
These developments are so widespread, they had to be expressed in a timeline to alleviate confusion and allow the reader to reach their own conclusions. Numerous hyperlinks lead to the documents cited and supporting multimedia appears throughout.
While each of these topics deserves a dedicated headline, it is the collaborative nature and coordinated efforts of a particular network that is gaining the support of government. The issue that needs to be addressed is the sum of these parts that would normally be lost in a 24 hour news cycle if examined individually. With that said, the report patiently continues.
The 2014 March for Life began Thursday on Parliament Hill, marked by a handful of FEMEN activists being carted away by police. A topless convoy crashed the rally in support of women’s rights, but apparently their message was too avant-garde for the masses. It’s a story of disparity when anti-abortionists are permitted to flood the streets with photos of mutilated foetuses and the female body it comes from is censored by law enforcement, but this situation depicts the polarized views that dominate Canadian discourse.
Justin Trudeau came out the day before, to warn anti-abortionists they needn’t apply for candidacy in the federal Liberal party. Aside of political platforms and moral persuasion, this decision was in keeping with a Supreme Court precedent that determined a woman’s right to choose under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On the surface these sentiments appear to be shared by Prime Minister Harper, as he worked to quell anti-choice motions from Conservative backbenchers in his own party. The government claims to respect the legal status quo, but an investigation has led to serious revelations that challenge that outward appearance.
Several documents retrieved from Conservative MP’s and supporting sources will illuminate a contentious matter on the Hill. For years the media has been chasing rumours about the existence of a Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus (PPLC) and historically it’s been denied as an unofficial gathering of MP’s with similar preferences.
Everyone appreciates there is a heated difference of opinions as they relate to these human rights, but there is greater concern if this caucus is operating as an official branch of the Harper government, in defiance of the Charter and Supreme Court position. Consistent denials from members of parliament who engage with the anti-abortion group have helped to keep the issue at bay, but their words are incongruent with caucus literature and the many real actions they’ve taken.
In addition to the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus having an office on Parliament Hill, it became apparent they’re working with a private lobby that has used this access to infiltrate ministries and the PMO. The lobby itself describes the operation as “infiltrating the government” and success has been so great that they’ve replicated the process for provincial legislatures in parallel campaigns.
Some of their goals include abolishing social welfare programs for every walk of life. They include Native assimilation, censoring television and media, widespread privatization, controlling women, facilitating hate speech and rescinding human rights. A common response is disbelief that it could be anything more than ideas, but the following challenges that inclination toward apathy by outlining this government-supported lobby’s significant progress.
1989, October – The Campaign Life Coalition mentions sub organizations such as Tories for Life and Liberals for Life, referring to Canadian political parties. The movement is planning to infiltrate the Liberal leadership convention, to facilitate anti-abortion legislation by selecting representatives who are friendly to it.
1998, September – The Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus is re-established, according to the movement’s newspaper. The first co-chairs are MP Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC, now Employment Minister), MP Tom Wappel (Scarborough West, LPC, departed government in 2008 to become legal counsel for Campaign Life Coalition) and MP Elsie Wayne (Saint John, CPC, retired in 2004 but continued to chair the Conservative election campaign in Atlantic Canada).
In the announcement, Campaign Life Coalition is described as the “political arm” of the movement and they vow to complete their work in the background “from now on”. Their services will include assisting MP’s draft private member bills to achieve anti-abortion legislation. Under Prime Minister Chrétien (Liberal majority government), they plan to lobby for less stringent treatment of private member bills and the first March for Life rally attracts “almost 50 MP’s and senators” to planning meetings on the Hill.
It should be noted that Jason Kenney made history by trying to suppress pro-choice activists in the university setting, pre-dating this caucus by more than a decade. The Walrus attributes his religiously motivated government aspirations to that defining experience with the American movement.
1999, May – The first anti-abortion March for Life is a two day rally on Parliament Hill. It’s hosted by the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus (PPLC) and a press conference is held by co-chairs MP Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC, now Employment Minister), MP Tom Wappel (Scarborough West, LPC, retired 2008, Campaign Life Coalition counsel) and MP Elsie Wayne (Saint John, CPC, retired 2004).
At this time Kenney made accusations against the Calgary Foothills hospital, that nurses claimed mothers were being induced prematurely and the babies were left to die. The hospital sought a court injunction to stop these reports and Kenney responded by compelling a police investigation.
When the hospital wasn’t found to commit infanticide as Kenney alleged, the technical arguments about abortion were re-asserted. This time the future minister of employment suggested the police failed to properly investigate and he may compel the Attorney General to engage in a province-wide probe. At issue is whether the foetus is technically alive in the surgery removal process.
After this press conference the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus held a luncheon for anti-abortion MP’s and activists to network. In attendance were the co-chairs as well as MP Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton-Melville, CPC), MP Dan McTeague (Pickering-Scarborough East, LPC, retired 2011), MP Ken Epp (Edmonton-Sherwood Park, CPC, retired 2008), MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC), MP Norman Doyle (St. John’s East, CPC, became senator in 2012), MP Mark Muise (West Nova, CPC, retired 2000), MP Reed Elley (Nanaimo-Cowichan, CPC, retired 2004), MP Janko Peric (Cambridge, LPC, retired 2004), MP Eric Lowther (Calgary Centre, CPC, retired 2000), MP John Nunziata (York South-Weston, LCP turned Independent, retired 2000), MP Pat O’Brien (London-Fanshawe, LPC turned Independent, retired 2005), MP John O’Reilly (Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes-Brock, LPC, retired 2004), two unnamed senators and additional members of parliament.
2001 – Social and Cultural Archives prepares the fonds for Campaign Life Coalition, itemizing all lobbying correspondence with schools, hospitals, community organizations and members of government. It covers the years 1967 to 1993 and notes communication with MP Rob Nicholson (Niagara Falls, CPC) since 1986, before he became the Justice Minister and current Defence Minister of Canada.
2001, May – The Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus holds a press conference in conjunction with the March for Life rally. They share their praise of co-organizer and lobbyist, Campaign Life Coalition. The group spoke briefly about the PPLC’s work and noted MP Garry Breitkreuz‘s (Yorkton-Melville, CPC) motion to redefine the meaning of a human being to include unborn children. The rest of the PPLC’s projects had to be kept private.
In attendance were MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC), MP Elsie Wayne (Saint John, CPC, retired 2004), MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008), MP Reed Elley (Nanaimo-Cowichan, CPC, retired 2004) and MP Dan McTeague (Pickering-Scarborough East, LPC, retired 2011).
2001, May – The Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus elects new co-chairs. MP Elsie Wayne (Saint John, CPC, retired 2004) remains the same; while MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008) replaces MP Tom Wappel (Scarborough West, LPC, retired 2008) and MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) replaces MP Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC, now Employment Minister).
Vellacott introduces a “conscience bill” that would allow health care workers to opt out of job duties related to abortions. Wayne is working on a bill to de-fund abortion and MP Jim Pankiw (Saskatoon-Humboldt, retired 2004) is re-introducing a similar de-funding bill from years ago.
Pankiw was also embroiled in controversy due to a public letter condemning the University of Saskatchewan for policies related to First Nations enrollment. He compared supporters of affirmative action to a modern day (reverse) Klu Klux Klan and he would later be convicted of drunk driving in 2014.
2001, December – In the Canadian Alliance leadership race between Stockwell Day and Stephen Harper (pre CPC), the future prime minister lodges a complaint against his challenger for the unethical procurement of memberships. Day was reprimanded for allowing the Campaign Life Coalition to sign up party members directly through their website and feed them into the political campaign without oversight from officials. This lent to distrust and Harper emerged the victor.
2003, May – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) commemorates the sixth annual March for Life in parliament. Anti-abortion activists complained about a media blackout hindering their event, but together they celebrated an increase of 1,000 participants, for a total of 3,500.
2003, December – Prime Minister Paul Martin succeeds Jean Chrétien as he steps down and the Liberals appoint a new leader from within. It remains a majority government.
2003, October – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC), MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008) and MP Elsie Wayne (Saint John, CPC, retired 2004) issue a Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus press release, on letterhead that identifies the Justice Building and House of Commons as the official mailing address. The letter denounces Bill C-13 and claims a majority of Canadians do not support embryonic stem cell research. They state that human babies must be killed for this scientific experiment and follow with similar accusations in the parliamentary press gallery, but it doesn’t appear the media covered this appearance. (A copy was obtained from Vellacott’s archives and has disappeared from the original source since the date of discovery.)
2004, October – Prime Minister Paul Martin wins election, to a Liberal minority government.
2004, October – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) and MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008) issue a Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus press release, on letterhead that identifies the Justice Building and House of Commons as the official mailing address. They advocate for the anti-abortion conference occurring in Winnipeg and the Silent No More campaign that focuses on women who later regretted having an abortion. (A copy was obtained from Vellacott’s archives and has disappeared from the original source since the date of discovery.)
2004, December – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, that compels federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler (LPC) to intervene in the Saskatchewan NDP government. He cites a Supreme Court decision that allows marriage commissioners to deny gay unions, based on religious conscience. He goes on to say the highest court determined that gay marriage is not a human right and asks the federal government to ensure the provincial counterpart can’t force anyone to perform the ceremony. (A copy was obtained from Vellacott’s archives and has disappeared from the original source since the date of discovery. A backup file can be found here.)
2005, February – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, accusing the Martin Liberal government of “discriminating” against Canadian parents for trying to establish a national daycare program. He states that 75 percent of families would rather have stay-at-home parents or relative babysitters, instead of government intervention that allows them to work. (A copy was obtained from Vellacott’s archives and has disappeared from the original source since the date of discovery. A backup file can be found here.)
2005, February – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, in cross-party support of MP Paul Szabo‘s (Mississauga South, LPC, retired 2011) Bill C-206. Szabo is a fellow member of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus and this legislation is intended to regulate alcohol labelling with health and maternal warnings, similar to cigarettes today.
Vellacott explains that alcoholic beverages are consumed by 30-40 percent of pregnant women and this is the “leading cause of mental retardation in Canada”. According to this government presser, he says that 50 percent of inmates suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and alcohol related birth defects. Then, he attributes 50 percent of hospital emergencies, 65 percent of child abuse and 60 percent of homicides to alcohol abuse. These claims are not supported by cited studies and it’s unknown where these statistics originated. (A copy was obtained from Vellacott’s archives that has since disappeared and a backup file can be found here.)
2005, April – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, arguing against Bill C-38, The Civil Marriage Act, to recognize same sex unions. He warned this will result in ruinous lawsuits against his constituents and cause them to lose employment due to religious conscience. This legislation passed two months later by a vote of 158 to 133. (A copy was obtained from Vellacott’s archives that has since disappeared and a backup file can be found here.)
2005, May – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) and MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008) issue a Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus press release, on letterhead that identifies the Justice Building and House of Commons as the official mailing address for the PPLC. The topic is titled Violence No More and it calls on physicians to justify the reason for each patient’s abortion, to ensure the medical community isn’t supporting domestic violence by keeping it secret from the government.
A study coinciding with this year’s March for Life determined that repeated sexual abuse was responsible for many of these decisions and the caucus felt government should be alerted to support victims of molestation to deliver their babies instead of aborting.
Another conference was scheduled in the parliamentary press gallery, but again no record of media coverage could be located. (A copy of this letter was obtained from Vellacott’s archives and has disappeared from the original source since the date of discovery.)
The annual March for Life is a product of the Campaign Life Coalition. This non-profit is also a registered lobbyist (see here and here and here) and lobbying constitutes a vast majority of the group’s work and purpose.
2006, January – The Harper Conservatives are first elected to a minority government.
2006, March – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, accusing the Canadian Cancer Society of lying to the public on CBC. He cites a scientific report that proves birth control causes cancer and so do abortions. That report arises from an American agency that is staffed by known anti-abortion activists and was discredited as biased by the global cancer community, as well as the World Health Organization.
He goes on to educate about female breasts in pregnancy, but this MP is not a doctor and rather holds a Master of Divinity (to church minister). This government press release closes with another suggestion against the Canadian Cancer Society, that it may be failing to adopt this (discredited) study due to a monetary relationship with Big Pharma, that would rather see cancer prevail for profit and mutual benefit. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives, in addition to here.)
2006, May – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) and MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008) issue a Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus press release, on letterhead that identifies the Justice Building and House of Commons as the official mailing address. The information claims that breast cancer is caused by abortion. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives.)
2006, May – Sun Media National Bureau Chief, David Akin, reports members of parliament who attended this year’s March for Life on his personal blog. Supporting evidence cited in this piece has been removed from internet, but he describes “many Conservative MP’s” including Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC, as parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister). Kenney was joined on stage by fellow Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus speakers, MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008), MP Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, LPC, retired 2011) and MP Tom Wappel (Scarborough West, LPC, retired 2008).
2007, May – A secret Conservative party handbook is leaked to reporter Don Martin at the National Post. It’s a 200 page document that includes instructions on how to bring government business to a halt, as well as how to select Conservative friendly witnesses to give committee input.
2007, May – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) and MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008) issue a Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus press release, on letterhead that identifies the Justice Building and House of Commons as the official mailing address. In recognition of International Women’s Day, the caucus condemns sex-selective abortions and alleges a Canadian epidemic in six pages of footnotes, that compare this country to China.
The literature also confirms the PPLC will hold a conference in the parliamentary press gallery (Centre Block), to kick off the annual March for Life. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives.)
2007, May – The annual March for Life occurs in Ottawa, to Parliament Hill. The group’s anti-abortion banners are endorsed by the Government of Canada logo. This cannot be done without permission and it’s unknown if the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus approved this request or provided funding. It’s not possible to track their business or disbursements because the caucus operates in secret.
2007, May – Due to complaint from the public and a former MP, the Treasury Board Secretariat investigates the Campaign Life Coalition lobby, for use of the Canadian government logo (aka word mark) on anti-abortion signs. The original story by Macleans magazine has since been removed from internet.
Kady O’Malley’s story from the following year remains hosted and it confirms the 2007 debacle. She reports the government sent a cease and desist order, but March for Life organizers say they used the logo for five years without ruffling any feathers. Ultimately they agree to remove the symbol and blame the incident on volunteers.
2007, May – At the same March for Life event in Ottawa, a number of officials attend as the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus. They include MP Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, CPC, Independent since 2013 due to Elections Canada charges), MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC), MP Bev Shipley (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, CPC), MP Jeff Watson(Essex, CPC), MP Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, CPC), MP Dave Anderson (Cypress Hills-Grasslands, CPC), MP Mark Warawa (Langley, CPC), MP James Lunney (Nanaimo-Alberni, CPC), MP Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, CPC), MP Myron Thompson (Wild Rose, CPC, retired 2008), MP Harold Albrecht (Kitchener-Conestoga, CPC), MP Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, LPC, retired 2011) and MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008).
While some of these legislators decline to speak, Steckle addresses his private member Bill C-338, to criminalize abortion after 20 weeks gestation. The footage pans to Dr. Morgentaler’s medical office, where he and staff faced firebombs and attempted murder for their willingness to provide abortions in the past.
2007, May – MP Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, CPC, now Independent) was Prime Minister Harper’s parliamentary secretary when he gave this speech at the March for Life, on behalf of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.
2007, August – The Abortion Rights Coalition produces a list of anti-choice members of parliament.
2007, October – MP Ken Epp (Edmonton-Sherwood Park, CPC) introduces private member Bill C-484. It’s titled the Unborn Victims of Crime Act and would eventually be defeated.
2008, May – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) and MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008) issue a Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus press release, on letterhead that identifies the Justice Building and House of Commons as the official mailing address. The information explains the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a priest and anti-abortion activist (representative of Silent No More).
This year she will attend the March for Life in Ottawa with caucus MP’s and address the parliamentary press gallery to kick off events. Again there is no record of media coverage, despite the government hosting such a high profile figure who is also a Republican employed by a Conservative think-tank. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives.)
2008, May – Although the Treasury Board Secretariat claimed to issue a cease and desist order, the Canadian government logo re-appeared on anti-abortion signs. This time they explained it was due to the printer’s oversight and the government was considering if it would take action in response to complaints.
2008, May – Ezra Levant posts a blog that unabashedly slams the Human Rights Commission. The piece accuses investigators of obtaining “illegal warrants” and downright “hacking” the targets of complaint instead of following proper legal procedure.
It reveals an email from then Justice Minister Rob Nicholson (Niagara Falls, CPC, became Defence Minister in 2013) in support of a motion from MP Rick Dyskstra (St. Catharines, CPC), to have the commission reviewed. MP Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC, now Minister of Employment) is also feted for “stickhandling” the matter and resolving that it be heard by the government’s justice committee.
2008, October – The Harper Conservatives are re-elected to a second minority government, with a slight increase improving upon the first.
2008, December – MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South, CPC) is newly elected to co-chair the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, replacing MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008). Both chairs are now Conservative MP’s.
2009, March – An event is organized on Parliament Hill for MP’s and senators by ARPA Canada (Association for Reformed Political Action). The organization is a registered lobbyist and the evening was co-sponsored by MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) and MP John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood, LPC).
Legislators were greeted by an expert in the Old Testament (Old Testament aka “eye for an eye”, New Testament aka “turn the other cheek”), Dr. Cornelis Van Dam. His speech was titled God and Government: A Biblical Perspective on the Role of the State (full audio available here and text available here).
The ARPA lobby reports that fifteen MP’s from Conservative, Liberal and NDP parties attended, as well as one senator and staff for MP’s that weren’t available. Trinity Western University’s Laurentian Leadership Centre (TWU) was also present and according to another priest, the event was held in an NDP committee room in the West Block.
After a lecture defining God’s ultimate sovereignty over government, the church and lobby representatives say they were encouraged by MP’s to have ‘their people’ search for jobs within legislative offices.
2009, May – MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South, CPC) issues a press release on letterhead that identifies the West Block in the House of Commons as the new Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus mailing address. This media advisory argues for freedom of speech on behalf of anti-abortionists and informs the PPLC will appear in the government’s press gallery the following day to elaborate.
A common complaint from these activists is they cannot protest within the “bubble zone” surrounding medical clinics to harass abortion patients as they come and go. Some have faced repeated criminal charges for purposely breaking this rule. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives.)
2009, May – Corresponding with the item above, MP’s in the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus were joined by students in the parliamentary press gallery. This time they were filmed as an act of government led by PPLC Chair, MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South, CPC), but all major media outlets failed to cover the event.
This clip is telling from both perspectives, in that the caucus succeeded in making the anti-abortion plight become government business and the press continues a near-blackout, so their actions aren’t seen by the public. To schedule time in the government press gallery it must be booked with the bureau chiefs who cover it, so every major outlet was aware but simply declined to attend. Of the reporters who did show, no hard questions were asked; but the caucus did reveal there may be members from the NDP and other parties on the Hill.
A 2007 article about the PPLC was written by Kady O’Malley and published by Macleans magazine. It was titled Lust for Life, but has since disappeared from the internet. (A backup copy can be found here.) This is the only known video of the caucus’ government pressers and it does a good job of speaking for itself in lieu.
2009, May – Signs at this year’s March for Life don’t bear the Canadian government logo. The word “National” replaced “Canada”, but the lobby continued to use the identical font with flag placement, mimicking the trademark instead of replicating.
2009, December – The Hill Times publishes a story about the Tory Anti-Abortion Caucus Committee. MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) writes a letter to correct (page 8). He informs it’s the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus and it’s a “multi-party caucus of parliamentarians”, “open to MP’s of the House and the Senate”. He identifies MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South, CPC) as the new caucus chair and mentions a former Liberal, but will not divulge the roster of names because it’s a member’s choice to go public or continue in secret.
2010, March – Campaign Life Coalition is accused of associating with groups that employ violence to achieve the anti-abortion agenda, by the Canadian Bishop’s Conference. In a 10 page report, the Catholic Organization for Development and Peace alleges the lobby is a “militant anti-abortion group” that has targeted some of their priests with “slanderous attack campaigns”, for the appearance of supporting a woman’s right to choose. These bishops say the lobby “continuously misrepresents facts and distorts reality to serve their purpose,” but the lobby proudly defends these actions. It has not admitted the use of violence however.
2010, April – MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South, CPC) proposes Bill C-510. It’s An Act to Prevent Coercion of Pregnant Women to Abort.
2010, May – At the annual March for Life rally, MP Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, former CPC, now Independent) addresses the crowd with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.
2010, May – At the annual March for Life rally, MP Kelly Block (Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, CPC) addresses the crowd with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.
2010, May – At the annual March for Life rally, MP Jeff Watson (Essex, CPC) addresses the crowd with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.
2010, May – At the annual March for Life rally, MP Harold Albrecht (Kitchener-Conestoga, CPC) addresses the crowd with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.
2010, May – At the annual March for Life rally, MP Royal Galipeau (Ottawa-Orleans, CPC, former Deputy Speaker) addresses the crowd with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.
2010, May – At the annual March for Life rally, MP Gurbax Singh Malhi (Bramalea-Gore-Malton, LPC) addresses the crowd with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.
2010, May – At the annual March for Life rally, MP Mark Warawa (Langley, CPC) addresses the crowd with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.
2010, May – At the annual March for Life rally, MP Brad Trost(Saskatoon-Humboldt, CPC) addresses the crowd with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus. He celebrates their success in convincing government to cancel foreign aid to the poorest countries that provide abortions. Even the ones with an epidemic of molested child brides, just as the lobbies requested.
EasyMail is created so lobby supporters can assist the group with email campaigns to MP’s and senators. They publish policy reports to advise the government and have fellow activists forward copies to elected officials “in a matter of seconds”, without needing to add personal comments.
In total, ARPA provides 78 different form letters with their own policy attachments to affect federal laws and provincial matters in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. Some of these topics include kindergarten, sex education, gender identity, human rights, green energy, anti-bullying, WSIB, abortion funding, prostitution, euthanasia, Aboriginal rights, income splitting, pensions, public service and physical discipline. (This is only a sample and some topics will be discussed in detail as the investigation progresses.)
2010, September – MP Rick Dykstra (St. Catharines, CPC) films a video campaign on behalf of lobbyist ARPA Canada. Together they push a second motion for a parliamentary committee to assess the Human Rights Commission for alleged abuse of Section 13. One infamous Conservative dubbed this tribunal the “thought crime” police when it comes to hate speech. Others in the anti-abortion movement feel the interpretation of human rights stifles their ability to express displeasure at women entering medical clinics and against gay sexuality.
Of interest, the executive director and head lobbyist at ARPA is Mark Penninga. He interned with MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) as the latter was chairing the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus. In a book by Marci McDonald, the author notes that Penninga graduated from Trinity Western University’s Laurentian Leadership Centre. This is the same TWU that participated in private parliament events hosted by the lobbyist. They’re also at the centre of a current controversy, for trying to create a religious law school that can deny admission to gay students.
Another student, Jared Kuehl, went straight to work in Prime Minister Harper‘s office in the issues management division (leaving in 2013 to become head of government relations for Shell). Thirty more Trinity Western graduates would staff the Harper government, whether working for other MP’s or through permanent positions in policy departments.
2010, November – ARPA Canada takes their anti human rights project across the country. Mimicking the true government tribunal, they promote a website titled HumanRightsCommissions.ca, with the goal of abolishing them altogether.
The website publishes quotes from MP Brad Trost (Saskatoon-Humboldt, CPC), MP Rob Anders (Calgary West, CPC), MP Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, CPC), MP James Rajotte (Edmonton Southwest, CPC) and Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, CPC) that appear to support the endeavour.
The ARPA advertisement provided by MP Rick Dykstra (St. Catharines, CPC) is featured on the site’s multimedia page, in addition to clips from Ezra Levant and Rex Murphy. The launch of this project is also covered by the Campaign Life Coalition news site, Sun Media and AM980 (audio). All promote the material as a “grassroots” movement called Stand Up For Freedom Canada without mentioning the ARPA lobby whatsoever.
The public relations campaign to abolish human rights tribunals is touted in defence of Macleans magazine, Ezra Levant and those accused of hate speech against gays. Going by this grassroots pseudonym, ARPA explains the commission has been overtaken and manipulated by “leftist” activists to “target Conservative citizens” and organizations. They encourage the public to pressure politicians for swifter action through the EasyMail service, as an investigation was initiated by parliament and they needed to convince the government there was strong public will behind this ARPA concern.
2010, December – ARPA Canada produces a video to incite political pressure for the second reading of Bill C-510 in parliament. The organization is clearly a registered lobbyist,
with a Christian anti-abortion mandate, but the director asserts they’re a non-profit entity when it presents a problem for Tories in the Ontario election (federal and provincial campaigns intertwining). At least one funeral home accepts memorial donations in the name of ARPA as a charity as well.
This ARPA campaign is then hosted by the national president of Campaign Life Coalition – a sister registered lobby. Both supported MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South, CPC) as Chair of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, but the legislation they promoted was defeated by a vote of 178 to 97.
2011, March – Escalating from last year, a Quebec Catholic priest sues the Campaign Life Coalition news service. Media describes the battle as pitting “two extremes of Canadian Catholicism against each other”. Father Raymond Gravel was also an MP for the Bloc Quebecois in the riding of Repentigny and he was open about his younger years as a sex trade worker in Montreal’s Gay Village. It’s believed this history and open-mindedness attracted numerous articles against him.
One campaign by the anti-abortion lobby resulted from Gravel’s lack of support for a PPLC member’s bill. MP Ken Epp (Edmonton-Sherwood Park, CPC) proposed C-484 to make it a separate crime when a baby is harmed in the womb, in addition to the mother who is already protected by law. When the modern priest stood opposed, the Campaign Life Coalition began publishing his contact details, as well as associates and superiors within the Church.
As a result of this relentless publicity, Gravel reports he was warned by the Vatican that he would be de-frocked if he bothered to seek re-election. At the same time the anti-abortion lobby proudly took credit and praised supporters for ousting a member of parliament. (All claims remain alleged as the case is unsettled and Gravel retired from politics.)
2011, April – Prime Minister Harper announces he will create a religious freedom office if re-elected.
2011, May – The Harper Conservatives are re-elected, this time to a majority government.
2011, May – Campaign Life Coalition distributes a wire announcement. They advise media of their presentation in the government press gallery to kick off the March for Life (Centre Block), but the lobby is speaking on behalf of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus and MP’s who are eligible to schedule the government’s press events.
2011, May – At least four MP’s speak on behalf of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, at the annual March for Life rally that occurs under their sponsorship.
2011, July – Lobbyist ARPA Canada partners with the Holland Shopping Centre in British Columbia, to offer $500 in prizes for letters to the editor in mainstream media. They note their success with a similar drive in Alberta regarding the repeal of human rights and hope to inspire additional editorials in response to the new campaign. In this way they won’t appear to come from the lobby and are made to look independent.
2011, August – Lobbyist ARPA Canada consults on the federal budget. The report is accepted by the House of Commons standing committee and recommendations include de-fuding and disbanding the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal.
ARPA calls for a 90 percent reduction to arts funding for a few noteworthy reasons. The lobbyist sees no point in the National Film Board and they take special offense to Telefilm for objectionable content. In this government report they complain of “lewd and crude” material, like a “poo testament” with an image of Jesus ascending to Heaven as a piece of feces. The album was titled “Holy Sh*t” but they failed to see the humour in it. In fact, they say every Canadian is mortified and therefore art should not be encouraged by the government.
They also complain of a movie titled “Year of the Carnivore” and suggest the main character engaged in sexual activity in a room full of children. ARPA points out that child pornography is a criminal offense imply the actor should be charged, but a review from the Globe and Mail didn’t get anyone’s libidos or fists pumping.
The last concern noted is producing a balanced budget by reducing the role of government. ARPA believes citizens relinquish their personal responsibilities when they look for handouts like childcare and forms of social support. They believe business and charities can handle these needs more efficiently and ask the government to defer. They also promote income splitting as a fairer way to treat families that want to keep one parent at home.
2011, September – MP Brian Storseth (Westlock-St. Paul, CPC) proposes private member Bill C-304, An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act; to repeal Section 13 entirely and any mandate over hate speech. As noted by Slaw legal magazine, there was little if any debate from opposition parties. The assessment goes on to describe the consequence of allowing racism and bullying to flourish online. Although the bill was promoted as a vehicle for freedom of speech, there are countless examples of white supremacists, anti-abortionists and anti-gay activists celebrating the move. MP Brian Storseth (Westlock-St. Paul, CPC) was also green-lighted by the Campaign Life Coalition as being onside with the lobby’s agenda.
2011, September – Lobbyist ARPA Canada publishes a policy report on prostitution, calling for the federal government to enact legislation that criminalizes johns, “rather than risk the Supreme Court creating another legal vacuum” due to the case that’s being argued from Ontario.
Ultimately they wish to see prostitution eradicated, but they’re willing to classify the female service provider as a victim of violence if the male is still incarcerated for a crime. ARPA bases this position on the writings of Dr. Melissa Farley, who was arrested 13 times in 9 different states as a prolific, American, anti-prostitution activist. She also led a “Rampage” campaign to destroy copies of Penthouse and Hustler in book stores.
ARPA asks followers for help to lobby the government in another EasyMail campaign, but this time they’ve created three different form letters so MP’s don’t receive “ten that look identical”. Another branch of ARPA operates in Tasmania and they lobbied that justice department for similar intervention, accusing the government of becoming a pimp if they sought to decriminalize.
2011, October – Campaign Life Coalition distributes a press release through the wire service. It announces a protest at the Ontario legislature to de-fund abortions; the first of its kind in the province. In this literature the lobby claims that 60 percent of Ontarians “oppose the status quo of paying for all abortions” and this is based on an Abacus poll of 1,015 people, from an online panel in which Roman Catholics and Conservative voters account for the majority of respondents (Ontario has a Liberal government). Abacus is also the house pollster for Sun News and Sun Media.
After examining the data it might be said that claims were misleading, in that 60 percent didn’t wish to de-fund all abortions and the responses supported health coverage in emergency procedures, even when a panelist appeared to be opposed. Only 10 percent opposed abortion completely. Furthermore, Bloomberg Businessweek has written about the accuracy of online polling and there is still an issue of reliability due to sampling pools of biased “enthusiasts”.
2011, October – Registered lobbyist ARPA Canada is invited by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird (Ottawa West-Nepean, CPC) to consult on the establishment of a religious freedom office. In their response, ARPA describes itself as a representative of the Reformed Church community. The Reformed Church is commonly referred to as Calvinism, that believes all humans are depraved but some are elected as righteous, regardless of their actions and good deeds. It also believes in theocracy (a God based government) and the faith accomplished this feat in Geneva, Switzerland, circa 1500’s.
- Ignore “political correctness” when it comes to monitoring and assistance. They state that Christians constitute 75 percent of the world’s persecuted and therefore 75 percent of resources should be dedicated that faith.
- Assist “emerging democracies” with implementation of religious freedom.
- Continuous monitoring of countries where Canada has contributed military support “of any magnitude or length”. This includes Libya and Afghanistan.
- Escalate sanctions, withhold foreign aid and pursue military intervention “should the circumstances warrant”. (It’s unknown how adhering to this philosophy would impact the situation between Israel and Palestine.)
2012, January – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, berating CTV for an investigative report on pregnancy crisis centres. He makes allegations against the broadcaster that cite ethical impropriety, because they didn’t report similarly undercover from medical clinics that provide legal abortions to find wrongdoing.
He continues to intimidate the interviewed sources with comments about their charity designation, officially as a member of parliament. He states it is his duty, but one might question if Vellacott penned the complaint independently, in light of three pages of footnotes that suggest additional legal intimidation and the lobby’s prior statements that indicate they would assist. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives, in addition to here.)
2012, February – ARPA Canada publishes a report that determines environmentalism is a religion and proceeds to explain the doctrine. The lobby labels David Suzuki its “High Priest” and lambasts the CBC for stories about climate change “as if it is an objective science beyond repute” and not a religious doctrine that’s really used to program children in the school system.
ARPA contrasts this environmental religion with true Christianity and determines that God made man the stewards of His earth, therefore we must trust man’s judgement because to question human actions would be equivalent to questioning God. This assertion is supported by an EasyMail campaign that promotes a Fraser Institute report against green energy and calls for a moratorium against wind and solar production in Ontario.
2012, February – MP Stephen Woodworth (Kitchener Centre, CPC) introduces Motion 312, to determine the definition of a human being and when life begins in the womb. It causes much controversy and is criticized as a backdoor to re-open the abortion debate.
2012, February – MP Stephen Woodworth (Kitchener Centre, CPC) appears in a multimedia ad for lobbyist ARPA Canada and together they produce material to advance Motion 312. This is the second ARPA video that is hosted by the national president of the Campaign Life Coalition lobby, Jim Hughes.
2012, March – Campaign Life Coalition shares a press release with the wire service. They create a website to assist MP Stephen Woodworth (Kitchener Centre, CPC) with advancing Motion 312.
2012, May – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, pressuring the federal government to include abortions under the popular anti-bullying campaign. He cites an Oregon doctor who claims the foetus is able to feel the pain of being attacked. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives, in addition to here.)
2012, May – The annual March for Life rally occurs on Parliament Hill. At least five MP’s spoke on this video, as well as students from Catholic schools who were covered for the trip by their boards of education. A pro-life mass coincides with the march and the Church says, “they need to challenge the false idea that abortion is a private, personal decision.”
The director of Campaign Life Coalition who worked with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus to advance Bill C-510 and Motion 312 also appears on the clip. He explains his group is there to see that MP’s who stand in the way of the anti-abortion movement are “removed from office in the next election”.
A second video arising from this event captures at least twelve MP’s addressing the crowd on behalf of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus. A new addition to the public face of this group is MP James Lunney (Nanaimo-Alberni, CPC).
2012, June – Campaign Life Coalition begins community presentations against Ontario Bill 13, the Toronto District School Board and Hamilton Wentworth District School Board, for adopting gay-straight alliances and “homosexualizing school curriculum”. Bill 13 was anti-bullying legislation and it passed despite the lobby’s objections.
A second video from the same event berates a handful of gay, Liberal and NDP members of provincial parliament.
2012, August – The ARPA lobby congratulates supporters for creating a stir in parliament. A petition campaign to support Motion 312 was devised (regarding the definition of a human being) and the group bombarded MP’s with numerous, separate petitions to be read in the House. Many only contained 25 signatures, but MP’s from every party stood to read them into Hansard.
Participating doesn’t indicate support, but the majority of MP’s didn’t present them. Others rose multiple times to address every paper individually and this includes shadow cabinet members from opposition parties. In all, these MP’s might have represented petitions more times than signatures appeared on each document.
2012, September – MP Stephen Woodworth’s (Kitchener Centre, CPC) Motion 312 is defeated. However, there is much ado in the media resulting from Conservative cabinet ministers who voted in favour. They include MP Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast), MP Peter Van Loan (York-Simcoe), MP Julian Fantino (Vaughan), MP Gerry Ritz (Battlefords-Lloydminster), MP Gail Shea (Egmont), MP Ed Fast (Abbotsford), MP Peter Penashue (Labrador, defeated 2013), MP Diane Ablonczy (Calgary-Nose Hill), MP Alice Wong (Richmond) and MP Rona Ambrose (Edmonton-Spruce Grove).
Ambrose took the most heat for siding with anti-abortionists as Minister for the Status of Women. But these Conservatives were joined by a few Liberals who include MP John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood), MP Lawrence McAulay (Cardigan), MP Kevin Lamoureaux (Winnipeg North) and MP Jim Karygiannis (Scarborough-Agincourt). Visit here to see the 91 MP’s who supported the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus position.
2012, October – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) nominates two anti-abortion activists for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. One of them was in jail for violating laws that are supposed to protect women who are entering abortion/medical clinics. Regardless, both are selected by the Harper government to receive the award for this “civil disobedience” that was deemed criminal.
Joseph Overton was an American Tea Party Libertarian from Michigan. He established the Mackinaw think-tank that pushes for charter schools, right-to-work legislation, low tax – no government, extreme right-wing policies. This is accomplished by use of the Overton Window, that in practical summary may resemble this:
Begin by asking for the unfathomable. It gains attention and infects the public dialogue. With a long term vision, gradually pull back from the extreme by increments and make the proposals a little more bearable. With each proposal, it keeps the dialogue going and entrenches the language in popular society. It then becomes an issue for politicians as the consistent language in media and their communities. Now the unthinkable gains some amount of consideration. By repeating this process it can shift public perception and bring them to the negotiating table.
An example from your children might also resemble this:
Mom says no snacks before dinner and Joe says, “But I want a whole cake!” Mom responds with a scowl so Joe compromises, “Well how about just one piece?” Mom still denies, but she tilts her head to the side and Joe can see he gained at least one iota of sympathy. Eventually the child asks for a “tiny cookie” and swears he’ll starve to death without something to put in his belly. Mom raises her eyebrow and agrees in frustration, because at least it’s only a small treat. But Joe has learned how to shift his mother’s window of what’s considered reasonable and now he can push for a treat before dinner every night. Once he gets the cookie, he can also push for larger snacks in the future.
This ARPA paper describes the strategic purpose of tabling consecutive private member bills, in an effort to shift perception about abortion and what the public considers normal (within the “window” of being acceptable). This piece also documents the group’s achievements, in shifting government attitudes and controlling the mainstream media.
2012, October – Lobbyist ARPA Canada is heard by the BC Finance Committee, in advance of the 2013 budget. They encourage the government to withdraw from early learning education programs. They request mandatory repayment of debt and phasing out the BC Human Rights Tribunal. They also implore legislators to de-fund abortion, so patients who can afford private surgical costs are the only ones who would have access to this medical care.
2012, October – Three Ontario Progressive Conservatives sponsor a Campaign Life Coalition press conference, to de-fund abortions through the public health care system. MPP Randy Hillier (Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington), MPP John O’Toole (Durham) and MPP Rick Nicholls (Chatham-Kent-Essex) didn’t attend the event despite hosting it. Liberal Education Minister Laurel Broten (Etobicoke-Lakeshore, OLP, retired 2013) was described by Sun Media as “self righteous” for accusing the Tories of trying to re-open the abortion debate.
2012, October – The president of Campaign Life Coalition writes an editorial about the need to stack parliament and senate with anti-abortion supporters, if they’re to pass legislation the lobby group is seeking. He mentions the Harper government’s opportunity to appoint activist judges to the Supreme Court of Canada, in an effort to help the process along judicially. He closes by noting an interesting tidbit about the group’s history.
Campaign Life Coalition takes credit for establishing the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus back in 1986, when it was often chaired by Senator Stanley Haidasz (Liberal, deceased 2009).
2012, October – ARPA congratulates supporters for helping to ensure the Alberta Education Act would not be subject to compliance with the Alberta Human Rights Act. The lobbyist claims parental freedom is at stake and encourages additional support for the overall human rights campaign, to abolish these laws and tribunals completely.
2012, November – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, promoting an email from a communications rep with the Toronto Right to Life Association. His office is used as a media centre on behalf of the anti-abortion movement and together they condemn MP Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, LPC, retired 2013, former leader of the Liberal party) for defending the Supreme Court and his concern that awarding criminals with the Diamond Jubilee Medal may incite more unlawfulness. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives, in addition to here.)
2012 November – Macleans publishes an article about the death of an infant that was heard by the Supreme Court. This frames a discussion about renewed action from members of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus and adapting the lobby’s language to be more acceptable to the public.
MP Brad Trost (Saskatoon-Humboldt, CPC) follows by vowing there will be repeated attempts at anti-abortion legislation that “might be every six months”, until they accomplish the caucus mandate. ARPA is also interviewed to make the human rights argument, but a hardline on Muslim immigration is also noted. Finally, MP John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood, LPC) contributes his sympathy and opines the anti-abortion issue is “a vote mover” that gets people to the polls.
2012, December – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, praising an anti-abortion blogger for releasing heath statistics the lobby interpreted to support a homicide allegation in relation to abortions. These conclusions are cited as a reason to compel the RCMP and the matter is re-ignited under the title of “infanticide”, nearly identical to the move by MP Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC, now Employment Minister) in 1999. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives, in addition to here.)
2012, December – Campaign Life Coalition attempts to interfere in the federal Liberal leadership race. The lobbyist pressures a Catholic high school in Sudbury, Ontario to cancel an appearance and communication with MP Justin Trudeau (Papineau, LPC), because he doesn’t represent anti-gay and anti-abortion ideals. The say, “The Board may be inviting spiritual harm to children,” by allowing Trudeau near youngsters in a widespread press release. If the Board doesn’t back down, the school will face embarrassing demonstrations.
2012, December – ARPA Canada publishes a report on their 2012 lobbying successes. It’s described as manipulation of the Overton Window to shift the public psychology and some of these advancements include favourable attention from Macleans magazine. After their consultation regarding Native affairs (explained in detail at 2013 Sidebar), ARPA found the government listened and began to legislate private property on reserves. They convinced the CBC to cancel racy content after a campaign of complaints. They obtained private group meetings with multiple MP’s and the Ontario Human Rights Commission asked for ARPA to present a legal opinion.
In the same communiqué, ARPA receives thanks from MP Brian Storseth (Westlock-St. Paul, CPC), for helping to pass Bill C-304. Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act was officially repealed and would no longer apply to hate speech.
In a second entry ARPA explains how MP Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, CPC) approached them to co-sponsor events between these politicians and the lobby. Storseth also contributed to an ARPA video that is ultimately used to solicit donations.
2013, January – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC), MP Leon Benoit (Vegreville, CPC) and MP Wladyslaw Lizon (Mississauga East-Streetsville, CPC) write the RCMP commissioner on House of Commons letterhead, requesting a homicide investigation for each abortion where the foetus might have exited a female’s body (after 19 weeks) without being technically dead first. (A copy can still be found in Benoit’s archives, in addition to here.)
2013, February – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, chastising the Canadian Press and CBC for reporting the story above. He clarifies his position and re-asserts the call for homicide investigations, if the foetus is more than 19 weeks and not yet technically dead in the removal process. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives, in addition to here.)
2013, February – Campaign Life Coalition publishes a press release celebrating the “demotion” of Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten (Etobicoke-Lakeshore, OLP, retired 2013). They claim it was a response to her sex-ed classes being forced on Catholic school boards, but in reality the minister was switched to a different portfolio under the new premier. The lobby goes on to warn the next Minister of EducationLiz Sandals (Guelph, OLP), not to meddle with religious curriculum and a similar rebuke of outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty (Ottawa South, OLP, retired 2013) was expressed in a scathing press release.
2013, February – The Office of Religious Freedom is established by the Harper government. It will promote religion as a “Canadian foreign policy priority”.
2013, February – The Whatcott decision is rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada and it upholds key parts of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, as it applies to hate speech. Whatcott is a religious anti-gay activist who distributed disturbing flyers with strong language that resulted in complaint.
Although ARPA applied for intervener status, it wasn’t granted. Instead legal counsel for the lobby contributed video analysis of the decision. In it they suggest the presiding Supreme Court Justices should be criminally charged for case exhibits they included in the reasons. ARPA goes on to justify hate speech as a fundamental need for Christians to critique others’ sexual lifestyles and warns they will need to lobby provincial governments for new laws to protect these rights.
2013, March – Campaign Life Coalition begins a crusade against Bill C-279, An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (Gender Identity). This legislation to prevent discrimination and violence against those with alternative gender identities is still before the senate, awaiting Royal Assent.
As such, the lobby is focusing on senators in an effort to have the bill denied and they’re targeting Prime Minister Harper (Calgary Southwest, CPC) with a letter writing campaign, encouraging him to use his authority over the Tory caucus.
2013, March – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, regarding his Motion 408 to condemn sex-selective abortions. He bases the reason on a CBC investigation, after attempting to discredit the broadcaster a month before. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives, in addition to here.)
2013, March – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, on behalf of a private research group from Chile that determined abortion is violence against women. While the report cites Chile as having a low maternal death rate they attribute to the government’s anti-abortion stance, it fails to mention that Canada has less than half the deaths per 100,000 women. Regardless, it’s promoted to media as a member of parliament. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives, in addition to here.)
2013, March – ARPA Canada attends the Manning Institute Networking Conference as an exhibitor, promoting itself with right-wing political celebrities such as Preston Manning, Tea Party founder, Ron Paul, and Conservative party legal counsel, Guy Giorno (PM Harper’s former chief of staff).
2013, March – Campaign Life Coalition releases a newsletter that details a new endeavour to host De-fund Abortion rallies at the Ontario legislature. In March they attended with words of support from MPP Joe Dickson (Ajax-Pickering, OLP), as he accepted their petitions to cancel this health care funding. Similar encouragement was sent by a federal counterpart, MP Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton-Melville, CPC) from Saskatchewan.
2013, April – Mark Penninga (former Vellacott intern, TWU grad, turned exec director of ARPA) publishes an update on the lobby’s use of the Overton Window. He cites MP Mark Warawa‘s (Langley, CPC) motions M-312 and M-408 and how they garnered massive media attention with public sympathy when the MP was muzzled.
From the NDP to Margaret Wente, this lobby claims to have won their support, if not in a backhanded way. As a result of this fiasco the Liberals filed a motion that would allow backbenchers to speak freely and Penninga describes this as playing into their hands. MP Brad Trost (Saskatoon-Humboldt, CPC) then thanks the PMO in Question Period, for drawing greater attention to their cause. Global News reports that he’s speaking from an informal pro-life caucus.
2013, April – ARPA submits a policy paper to the federal government in support of corporal punishment for children. It’s in response to Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette‘s (Liberal) Bill S-204, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (protection of children).
This time the lobby claims that hitting kids is beneficial, akin to the benefits of martial arts. They claim all science proving a negative effect is wrong and they assert contrary reports to debunk. However, new “science” cited by the lobby arises from anti-abortion activists and their letters to the editor. As in previous examples, when letters submitted by fellow lobbyists are published by a newspaper, they become cited as fact in subsequent policy papers and ARPA declines to mention this conflict.
The report also accuses the government of playing God by assuming any rules over children. They state that parents are accountable to God directly and this does not require “Orwellian” oversight from bureaucrats. The lobby then encourages followers to use their EasyMail system, to overwhelm MP’s and senators with a copy of the same report.
2013, April – The Canadian Catholic News applauds Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, CPC), for his ruling on MP Mark Warawa‘s (Langley, CPC) complaint that parliamentary privilege was abused when the whip quashed his statement about an anti-abortion motion. It opened the door to getting anti-choice opinions debated on the floor and Scheer was previously noted as being supportive of the PPLC cause.
2013, May – At the annual March for Life rally on Parliament Hill, MP Rob Anders (Calgary West, CPC) tells the crowd they must get involved in politics and stack nomination meetings to select anti-abortion candidates. Although the Canadian Press produced this story, very few outlets carried it. There was little coverage this year except for the lobbyist news service that estimates there were 25,000 in attendance and a CBC piece explaining how they’ve re-framed the movement as a human rights issue that discriminates against the foetus by giving women a choice.
At a prayer meeting before the march, a Baptist church compared abortion to the Holocaust and quoted Martin Luther King Jr. in support of their plight (but the quote is blatantly taken out of context). They also note the movement had been struggling for a decade, but it gathered momentum in the past six years (coinciding with repeat bills from PPLC members in the Harper government). The main commentary in this Campaign Life article is also provided by legal counsel for the sister lobby, ARPA.
In related news, the PMO refused to comment or commemorate the death of Dr. Henry Morgentaler. That space was filled by MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) who asserted that victims of sexual assault are abused when their tormentors drag them to abortion clinics. He says many of these victims are children and their “immeasurable” suffering is attributed to Dr. Morgentaler (not the sexual abuser).
Only MP Bob Rae (Toronto Centre) rose for the Liberals and MP Niki Ashton (Churchill) for the NDP, to honour the doctor’s courageous work in women’s and patient rights.
2013, May – MP Stephen Woodworth (Kitchener Centre, CPC) receives a lifetime achievement award from the Campaign Life Coalition lobbyist. It’s titled the Joseph P. Borowski Award, in recognition of that cabinet minister leaving the Manitoba NDP to stay true to anti-abortion causes. Only eight Conservative and Liberal MP’s have received this honour.
2013, June – MP Brian Storseth’s (Westlock-St. Paul, CPC) private member Bill C-304, An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, receives Royal Assent and becomes law. Sections that prevented hate speech have now been repealed. ARPA and Campaign Life Coalition also noted contact with MP’s and senators during this period, in the government lobby record.
2013, June – MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South, CPC) celebrates the first National Aboriginal Prayer Breakfast in the House of Commons (as unspoken Chair of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus).
Deeper investigation of this event produced unsettling material that requires explanation as a group, as opposed to chronologically.
Indigenous cultures have traditional, spiritual beliefs that do not resemble the trinity of Christianity or narrative of the Bible. This isn’t meant to disparage Native peoples who subscribe to organized religion, as many of them do and it’s an individual’s right to choose without judgement from any person.
It’s when one group speaks for the other that issues may arise and this very scenario clouds the parliamentary prayer breakfast. Thousands of Aboriginal children were taken from their homes by government and the Church and the history of residential school abuse didn’t stop until the early 1990’s. Therefore a great number of Canada’s First Peoples still have distrust for both the government and religion.
With that said, in June 2012, ARPA Canada submitted a report to parliament that lobbied for changes to the Indian Act. It was titled “Respectfully Submitted – Aboriginal Affairs”, similar to all the lobbying reports before it. Because they’re all generically titled “Respectfully Submitted”, it makes it extremely difficult to locate these documents through a general search on the internet.
ARPA supporters would have received an alert at the time, urging them to visit this page and EasyMail extra copies of the report to their members of parliament. This is how the lobby group gets coordinated action from anti-abortion activists and why they thank supporters for defeating bills or helping them oust elected officials. But this time a Christian appeal would be applied to Indigenous interests.
This particular report can only be summarized as a comprehensive call for Native assimilation. Based on Bible scripture from Romans 13, the group believes that First Nations can’t heal until they accept God and pay taxes.